The Corston Report 10 years on
To mark the 10th anniversary of the ground-breaking Corston Report on women in the criminal justice system, Women in Prison have launched a comprehensive assessment of the progress (or lack of it) on the Baroness’ 43 recommendations.
Corston+10 starts by emphasising that considering each of the recommendations of the Corston report in isolation does not suffice to appreciate the overall vision and ethos embedded in Baroness Corston’s report. Her overarching aim was that of systems change, of
A distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach.
Women In Prison investigate to what extent there has been fundamental systems change for women affected by the criminal justice system and what major barriers still impede its implementation.
Women In Prison (WIP) have adopted an innovative and, to my mind, much more useful variation of the classic traffic light system to assess progress on each of the 43 recommendations:
Using this system, WIP come up with the assessment summarised below. As always, it is not straightforward to come to a fair assessment on such complex issues such as the Inter-Ministerial Group for Reducing Re-offending addressing specific issues relating to women’s criminality (Recommendation 9) — not least because that group no longer exists. To accommodate this complexity, WIP often uses more than one traffic light signal to give an accurate picture of progress which is why the bullet points below add up to 68 and not 43.
- Some progress was made on 30 recommendations
- No progress was made on 13 recommendations
- Imminent problems are foreseen on 9 recommendations
- Progress has been reversed on 7 recommendations
- Positive developments are possible on 7 recommendations
- 2 recommendations have been implemented
Women in Prison argue that:
In order to achieve true systems change for women affected by the criminal justice system, it is vital for policy makers to recognise that criminal justice solutions alone are not sufficient to deal with offending. Nor is the Ministry of Justice, in isolation, able to implement the changes needed to reduce (re)offending. What is required is a joined-up approach that takes into account the root causes of women’s offending. This approach must encompass an understanding of the compelling opportunities for change that appropriate housing, mental health support and gender-specific women’s community support services can offer.
They highlight five, interlinked, key areas for systemic change:
- Expansion of and sustained funding for women’s centres in the community as “one-stop-shops” to prevent women entering or returning to the criminal justice system.
- Liaison and diversion schemes to be extended and rolled out nationally to divert women away from custody into support.
- Specialist community support, including mental health support and accommodation for women affected by the criminal justice system.
- Sentencing reform with greater use of alternatives to custody and women’s community support services.
- Coordinated, joined-up working between all agencies involved in the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system.
In my opinion this is an excellent report which takes an honest and objective assessment of the extremely variable progress in the implementation of the Corston Report. I particularly value the way that the focus is on next steps rather than frustration that a continuing cross-party consensus on women’s justice issues has not resulted in more positive action.
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