Women in contact with the Criminal Justice System
All the latest Stats Research Policy Best practice
This is a short and slightly disappointing report which seems intended merely to place a marker for the next government. Little substantive work has taken place since the Justice Committee’s initial enquiry into women offenders in March 2013. As a consequence, the report is reduced to expressing the hope
The UK has one of the largest prison populations in Western Europe and it comes at a significant economic and social cost – not least the high rates of reoffending. This is particularly true for women – with HMP Holloway and HMP Bronzefield being the largest women’s prisons in the EU.
We know that a large proportion of women in prison in England and Wales are drug dependent – 54% female remand prisoners were addicted to drugs in the year prior to being in prison. There is a parallel situation in the USA. Women are more than 50% more likely to be imprisoned for a drug crime than men (25.7% vs 17.2%).
The overall proven re-offending rate is 26.0%, the lowest level in over 10 years. This represents a small drop of 0.7 percentage points compared to the previous 12 months and a fall of 2.9 percentage points since 2002. Since 2002, the overall proven re-offending rate for adult and juvenile offenders has remained fairly stable, fluctuating between around 26% and 29%.
One of the best aspects of this important Clinks report is that it does not merely report the difficulties faced by organisations working with women offenders but highlights innovative practice and makes recommendations for ensuring that the needs of women offenders are not neglected under TR.
On 7 February, the MoJ issued an updated version of the Target Operating Model (TOM) for the new probation system. TOM2 is 74 pages long and gives a very detailed description of the current MoJ vision of how reducing reoffending will work from 2015 onwards.
The key words emphasised in the introduction are: Quality; Efficiency; Flexibility; Public Protection; Partnership and Standards.
On reflection, I probably had unrealistic expectations for what is a mainstream book. Vicky Pryce has been a positive voice for reform of women’s prisons since her release and is donating the royalties from Prisonomics to Working Chance, an excellent organisation which helps women with criminal convictions find work.
I was given Prisonomics, Vicky Pryce’s account of her short prison sentence served in Holloway and East Sutton Park prisons last year, as a Christmas present from my ever-loving. I’m only half way through, so will reserve my comments on her cost benefit analysis of women’s imprisonment until I’ve finished the book.
However, the main challenge I can see is that most women in the criminal justice system have complex, entrenched needs which require intensive and extensive help. The response paper seems to imply (page 16) that the additional £3.78 million paid to Probation Trusts for services for women offenders in the current financial year will be discontinued when new providers take over in April 2015 (see timeline here).
The first recommendation of the Corston Report was that “[e]very agency within the criminal justice system must prioritise and accelerate preparations to implement the gender equality duty and radically transform the way they deliver services for women On Friday, the MoJ put out three documents , a response to the Justice Committee’s report, an overview of the women’s custodial estate and a stock take of community services.