Painful Lives: Understanding Self-Harm Amongst Care-Experienced Women in Prison

Claire Fitzpatrick*, Katie Hunter, Julie Shaw, Jo C Staines

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)
77 Downloads (Pure)


Self-harm incidents in custody in England and Wales recently reached a record high, increasing particularly in women’s establishments (MoJ, 2020). This article explores experiences of self-harm by drawing on interviews with care-experienced women in prison in England. Using prior care experience as the underlying thread enables us to explore this topic through a different lens. Considering the functions of self-harm that women described, including the communication, alleviation and ending of pain, highlights the painful lives of those experiencing both state care and control institutions. This reveals that women have often been failed across different systems, sometimes with devastating consequences. Urgent attention must be paid to the system failures affecting those previously deemed by the state to require welfare and protection.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-18
JournalCriminology and Criminal Justice
Early online date17 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 17 Jan 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The author(s) disclosed receipt of the following financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article: This work was supported by The Nuffield Foundation [Grant number JUS/43534], but the views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily the Foundation. Visit

Publisher Copyright:
© The Author(s) 2022.

Structured keywords

  • SPS Children and Families Research Centre


  • care-experienced
  • imprisoned women
  • self-harm
  • system-failures
  • trauma


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