NEW Hall Prison at Flockton was today at the centre of a major inquiry into women in jail.
Vulnerable women with psychiatric problems are being sent to prison because there are not enough resources to look after them properly, the Chief Inspector of Prisons told an inquest.
It is the first time that Anne Owers, who inspects and reports on prisons in England and Wales, has given evidence at an inquest.
Coroner David Hinchliffe asked her to appear at a Wakefield inquest to put the death of Mandy Pearson at New Hall into the context of women in prison.
Ms Pearson, 37, was found hanging in a dormitory cell in the jail's healthcare centre on October 11, 2004.
The mother of three was serving a five-month sentence and was due for release in a few weeks.
Despite a history of self-harm and threats of suicide, Ms Pearson was never put in the high-risk category of women to be carefully monitored.
The inquest heard that when Ms Pearson entered the healthcare centre a nurse decided she was not a self-harm or suicide risk.
She was then seen by a doctor and a psychiatrist.
Both thought she had already been marked as an inmate in need of half-hourly checks and failed to put her on 'high risk' list.
Ms Pearson reportedly told the psychiatrist she was looking for somewhere to kill herself, but there was nowhere available in the healthcare centre.
In 2003 Ms Owers said: "New Hall is holding women and girls who should not be there.
"There is an urgent need to provide alternative therapeutic environments where appropriate treatment and support can be offered."
She told the inquest: "We didn't think there were enough staff made available to look after and assess the large number of women who apparently needed it at New Hall."
The inquest verdict is due tomorrow.