Women-in-Crime Sian West


 Sian West ex-Prison Governor

Sian West would go well with our other power woman the Lord Mayor. Full of energy and charisma, you are immediately aware of her presence

Having left the prison service she is now involved in Restorative Justice, she’s a volunteer for domestic violence, and music is her life.  “I breathe it, I live it, I eat it. “.    Not one to let the grass grow under her feet.

Choosing to be in the prison service as a Prison Governor was not typical for a woman 1978.

As a woman I wasn’t aware of women being treated differently, at school or university, then I joined one of the most macho institutions that you could ever imagine. The prison service, by definition, has to be quite male in that 95% of prisoners then, and now, are male.   You enter a male world.

Rather than a female, I am a just a Prison governor or an Operator, because those are the skills and abilities that people are relating to.

The most important thing I achieved was to have been in charge of 3 prisons and come out the other end alive. (  But I had the responsibility of life and death on my shoulders.)

Sian West when she was Prison Governor

now interested in Resotorative Justice and Domestic Abuse

I would  call myself a feminist, with a very, very small “f”.    I believe in equality.  But equality is a tenant of feminism, as opposed to female dominance.

My most important achievement was too have been in charge of 3 prisons and come out the other end alive.    But I had the responsibility of life and death on my shoulders.

Prison is different for women, in that one aspect, male prisoners have been in prison uniform whereas female prisoners wear their own clothes, which can give a sense of identity.   But it can highlight competition over owning designer jeans for instance, and bring home the a bigger, very hard difference, between the social standing amongst the prisoners themselves.

Additionally, women’s prisons are in very short supply, and there are going to be even less of them soon.   Take Swansea, for instance, if you’re female and sentenced in Swansea, you will be sent to a prison 70-80 miles away in England.  As a male, you will probably be placed in prison just a mere 1.5 miles away.

Women react to being in prison in a much more emotional way, and female staff can relate to the emotional aspect of the prisoners’ situations as opposed to the male staff.   So, bringing of male staff into women’s prisons, and women staff into male prisons, has had a very healthy outcome.   A bunch of men will not enable themselves to express emotionally to each another.  Female Prison Officers are able to get men to express their emotions and, conversely, male Officers can go into women prisons and calm every thing down.

Sian’s Advice

I actually feel very strongly that women shouldn’t be encouraged to take up things that have been hitherto male domains, just because they’ve been male domains.

This whole thing of “you can’t have it all”, I would certainly say, “Just forget it; just go with the flow”.  My children were my achievement, the final piece of the jigsaw of being a woman.

I would say, if you’re going to be true to yourself, follow your line into something that makes your eyes shine, and you know it does because you can feel your eyes shine when you’re talking about or doing it.

To read the full interview go to http://tinyurl.com/2bs5r5b

©2013 christrainers


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