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The latest data on women in the criminal justice system
The Female Offender Strategy Dashboard shows key trends for women in the CJS.

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Data Dashboard

The MoJ has just (21 March 2024) published its Female Offender Strategy Dashboard which presents the key metrics identified in the Female Offender Strategy Delivery Plan via a web-based data visualisation tool. This is a very useful resource and allows users to conduct custom analysis, including by locality, ethnicity and age depending on the data set. The dashboard provides a range of data on the four priority areas of the strategy:

  1. Fewer women entering the criminal justice system
  2. Fewer women serving short custodial sentences
  3. Better outcomes for women in custody
  4. Protecting the public through better outcomes for women on release

The headline metrics (which apply to adult women only) are usefully summarised on the front page of the dashboard. For each metric, the most recent year’s data is compared with the previous 12 months. However, the detailed information available in the rest of the dashboard helpfully shows trends over the last five years. I have reproduced the summary below and you can see that performance is mixed with key metrics worsening in nine areas but improving in the other nine.

First time entrants

The piece of good news here is that the number of women prosecuted for TV licence evasion dropped by 11.8% although there were still 32,092 prosecutions in 2022. There was an even bigger fall in the number of women prosecuted for benefit fall, down to just 58 in 2022. However, 3,835 women were prosecuted for truancy offences relating to their children.

Short custodial sentences

In 2022, 2836 adult women were sentenced to immediate custody of less than 12 months, the majority of whom received 6 months or less. This represents a tiny (0.3) percent decrease since the previous year and may well have increased in 2023 when the number of women in prison has increased. The percentage of women remanded in custody at Crown Court increased from 29% in 2021 to 32% in 2022, the same proportion as 2018.

Self-harm

In 2022, the self harm rate in prisons which hold female prisoners was 5,035 per 1000 prisoners which is an increase of 36% from 2021. This self-harm rate is 9.9 times the equivalent rate in prisons holding male prisoners. Tragically the female self-harm rate has been increasing every year since 2018 and there has been no improvement over the last year. The proportion of females self-harming in the latest 12 month period (up to September 2023) was 4% higher than in the previous 12 months, at 357 individuals per 1,000 prisoners.

Outcomes on release

The outcomes for women released from prison are not promising to say the least. The outcome figures mainly compare 2022 or 2021/22 with the previous year meaning that COVID will have distorted the figures. However, the main area of concern is the fact that In 2022 there were 1,593 recalls of women to custody, an increase of 10% from the previous year. Recalls of women now account for 7% of all recalls to custody.

Conclusion

While the data itself may be disappointing to say the least, the MoJ must be commended on its transparency and in making the data both accessible and customisable to end users. It does mean that the MoJ is accountable for its (failure to) deliver on its female offender strategy and the commitment to update the information annually provides a healthy challenge to the next Government.

 

Thanks to Andy Aitchison for kind permission to use the header image in this post. You can see Andy’s work here

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