Thousands of vulnerable women who have committed non-violent offences and pose no risk to the public are unnecessarily sent to prison each year in England and Wales. The Prison Reform Trust was therefore delighted when, just before Christmas, the House of Lords amended the Crime and Courts Bill to ensure that appropriate community-based options for women, which take account of their distinct needs, should be provided across England and Wales.
The amendment was tabled by our chair, Lord Woolf, and received substantial cross-party support. Unfortunately, the amendment was struck out at the start of the Bill’s passage through the House of Commons, on 5 February. However, the government has expressed sympathy with the purpose of the amendment and “readily acknowledge that there are many complex factors associated with women’s offending, including domestic violence, sexual abuse, substance misuse and homelessness.”
The Bill has now finished its passage through the House of Commons and is likely to return to the House of Lords, for consideration of Commons’ amendments, on Monday 25 March, when Peers will have the opportunity to reinsert the original ‘women’s amendment’ in Part 7 of Schedule 15 in the Bill. More information on the amendment and why it is needed is below.
Thank you to those of you who wrote to your MPs in support of the amendment.
This has undoubtedly helped to raise Parliamentary awareness of the pressing need for reform of women’s justice system. In the remaining stages of the Bill, the Prison Reform Trust will work to ensure statutory protection of women’s community provision.