Slide Amnesty International UK / Media Awards AWARD CATEGORIES

Victim, incompetent or mentally ill? How women navigate the oppressive environment of the 21st century prison



‘Victim, incompetent or mentally ill? How women navigate the oppressive environment of the 21st century prison’ is a 3,600 word feature article written by Sophie Campbell that was published on the Medium publishing platform in December 2020. This article is the final piece in a series of articles that Sophie wrote on female offending throughout the year that were also published by Prospect Magazine and the British Educational Research Association.

‘Victim, incompetent or mentally ill?’ describes Sophie’s experiences inside the UK’s largest female prison; HMP Bronzefield and how she came up with the term misogycon to describe the sexism faced by female offenders. Sophie confronts the stereotypes that most people have of women who offend, that tends to portray them as either lazy or uneducated. At first the statistics would seem to support this worldview.

Only 8% of women who leave prison will re-enter the workforce in their lifetime and the rate of female reoffending stands at over 58%. However, did you know that any job a former offender gets, especially if she’s a woman, is likely to put her below the poverty line, regardless of her prior work experience and qualifications, and that she will be subject to legalised discrimination across housing, education and employment.

Sophie uses her experiences of the criminal justice system (cjs) to expose the exploitation of female prison labour by organisations such as the London College of Fashion and our gendered cjs that exposes women to systemic gender inequality across education and employment. This has resulted in the creation of a racial apartheid social structure inside our prisons that consigns women from poor or racially marginalised communities to the bottom of society. By providing women who offend with a voice Sophie explains why the growing female prison crisis is too dangerous to ignore.


I shared this article with the Financial Times and Centre for Women’s Justice and in 2020 I was shortlisted for the Financial Times/McKinsey Bracken Bower Prize for the best business book proposal where I examined the historic misogyny aimed at women who offend. I also won the Emma Humphreys Memorial Prize that recognises one woman who through her writing has raised awareness of state violence against women.

I used statistics and my personal experiences to present a fresh take on women who offend who are most often dismissed as drug users, sex workers or uneducated women of colour. As a result of my writing I was invited to share my experiences with Bonafide Films who are creating a prison drama about women in prison, my articles and the book I’ve written is being read by three production companies who have been drawn to the innovative approach I’ve taken to this issue and I’ve been invited to share my work with U.S. publication Equality Includes You that has over 200,000 followers.

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