101 East

Australia: Criminalising Women

Investigating why more Australian women are behind bars than ever before and the challenges they face once released.

In Australia, more women are in prison than ever before.

In the last decade, the female prison population has soared by more than 75 percent.

Filmed over three months, this episode of 101 East investigates why so many women are going to jail in Australia and meets two women who know exactly what it is like inside.

Bekki has been to prison five times – for break and enter, driving while disqualified, driving under the influence of ice and escaping police custody.

She has just been released after serving a six-month jail sentence.

Most of the women in prison have been physically or sexually abused, with many turning to drugs before falling into a life of crime.

“Women’s prisons are filled with stories of people like me,” says Bekki.

“People that have had trauma, abuse, really violent relationships … it’s really sad.”

Fran has been to prison four times for drug dealing. Recently released after a three-year prison stint, she is now searching for somewhere to live and work.

Women often struggle to find work and housing after they have served their time, leading many to reoffend and be sent back behind bars.

“The hardest thing about staying out of prison is dealing with the isolation, the judgements, the stigma,” says Fran.

As Fran and Bekki struggle to overcome their own demons while convincing the world around them that they are worth another chance, 101 East investigates why so many women are going to prison in Australia.