A pressure group has called for a programme of women's prison closures to begin to help reduce re-offending.
It follows the closure of Brockhill women's prison in Worcestershire, which is to be converted into a male facility.
The Howard League for Penal Reform said the system is failing to rehabilitate women as two-thirds of those released go on to commit offences within two years.
The charity urged the Government to transfer resources to community programmes and treatment facilities for the 4,600 females currently in prison in England and Wales.
Female inmates are being affected by the increasing male prison population, it said. Plans to convert Brock-hill and Bullwood Hall in Essex into male prisons have resulted in women being moved around the country, according to the charity.
A review of women prisoners by Baroness Corston is under way following the death of six inmates at Styal Prison, near Wilmslow, Cheshire, between August 2002 and August 2003.
League director Frances Crook said: "We hope that the current review being conducted by Baroness Corston will provide the impetus for the Government to think radically about reducing the women's prison population so that only those very few women who do pose a danger to the public remain in custody. The vast majority can be managed safely in the community where they can make amends for their reoffending and help to heal the damage done by crime directly with victims or with the wider community."
A properly planned closure programme was needed and resources should be switched to community projects that meet women's needs, she added.
A Home Office spokesman said: "As the Home Secretary announced in his review of the criminal justice system on July 20, we are aware that there are people in prison who ought not to be there, including 10,000 foreign nationals, those with mental health issues and vulnerable women.
"We have outlined our intention to remove these where appropriate, and to use tough community sentences to deal with less serious, non-violent offenders.
"Custody will remain appropriate for women who are serious or persistent offenders."