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Young woman looking from behind the bars
Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Women’s pathways through the justice system

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Women have often been victims themselves: either emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child or exploited to support someone else’s drug use.

New NPC research

We know that in many cases the root causes of women’s involvement in crime are like those for men but are often more pronounced and have deeper repercussions. Often, they have been victims themselves: either emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child or exploited to support someone else’s drug use. Women are also more likely to be responsible for a family, and especially young children, meaning their incarceration is particularly damaging to wider society.

New Philosophy Capital has just (9 July 2018) published new research entitled: Understanding women’s pathways through the criminal justice system.

Authored by Grace Wyld, Plum Loomax and Tom Collinge, the paper sought to address 5 research questions:

  1. What are the common characteristics and needs of women involved in criminal justice system?
  2. What assets do women often need for a life away from crime?
  3. What does the charity sector do to address those needs and promote those assets?
  4. What are some of the upcoming policy changes to look out for?
  5. Where are the gaps in provision?

The three images below summarise the report’s answer to the first of these questions.

What do women commonly experience before criminalisation?
What are women's experiences in prison?
What are women's experiences on leaving prison?

Five assets for a life away from crime

The authors identify five assets for a life away from crime:

  1. Safety from violence
  2. Appropriate housing
  3. Good mental and physical health
  4. Financial independence and employment
  5. Access to services

Three key charity sector approaches

The report also identifies three key models of work to help women move away from crime:

  1. The women’s centre one-stop-shop model which has cross-party support but has suffered significant cuts in funding through the austerity years.
  2. Trauma-informed services work hard to minimise triggers (such as slamming doors) and equip women with tools to manage their triggers (such as slamming doors) and equip women with tools to manage their triggers to prevent relapse into substance abuse and offending. 
  3. Through-the-gate support with women prior to and at the point of leaving custody to ensure reintegration into the community with the resources they need (this term has been tainted by the failure of Community Rehabilitation Companies to deliver TTG services in the new Transformation Rehabilitation model of probation).

Gaps in provision and ideas for high impact funding

The report concludes with ideas on where core funding could have a significant impact on women’s lives:

  • Childcare available within women’s centres
  • BAME specific services
  • Support form women into a more diverse array of employment opportunities
  • Linking up best practice across women’s centres
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