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Women's justice reform

08/03/2016 07:30:00

The Prison Reform Trust has long called for a reduction in women’s imprisonment in the UK and a step change in how the criminal justice system responds to the needs of women and the drivers to their offending.

Following the announcement that HMP Holloway, the largest women's prison in Europe, is to close, director of the Prison Reform Trust, Juliet Lyon, joined Baroness Corston on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour to discuss how much progress has been made in reforming women's justice. Presenter, Jane Garvey visited HMP Styal and Stockport Women's Centre to hear first hand from women there. You can listen to the show by clicking here.

To mark International Women's Day (8 March) we brought together some of the latest developments in our Transforming Lives programme.

Find out about our new women's justice site, our latest briefings and blogs and hear our director Juliet Lyon at the Southbank Centre's WOW – Women of the World festival.

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London-based charity Switchback has won the Robin Corbett Award for Prisoner Rehabilitation 2016. This innovative charity, which was nominated for its work at HMP/YOI Isis in Thamesmead, uses catering, combined with intensive mentoring, as a way to help prisoners into training and employment on release. The charity has worked with professional chefs including the campaigner, food writer, broadcaster, and Switchback Partner, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. 

Commenting, Fearnley-Whittingstall said: “We love our work with Switchback. It’s a fantastic organisation that gives people an amazing chance.”

The second prize was awarded to St Giles Trust for their work at HMP Huntercombe to help foreign nationals held in prison with support and advice to prepare them for their release and reduce their risk of future offending. 

The awards, kindly supported by the Worshipful Company of Weavers, will be presented to the winners by Lady Corbett at a meeting of the All Party Parliamentary Penal Affairs Group in the Houses of Parliament today [Tuesday 23 February 2016]. The award was established in 2012 in memory of the former chair of the All Party Group Lord Corbett.

The award received coverage in the Daily Mirror, which you can read by clicking here.

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Commenting on today’s judgement by the Supreme Court in the cases of R v Jogee (Appellant) Ruddock (Appellant) v The Queen (Respondent)(Jamaica) concerning the application of the doctrine of joint enterprise, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“This judgement brings useful clarity to a complex area of law which has been the subject of increasing concern from the cross-party justice committee, criminal justice professionals, policy-makers, penal reformers and others. In some instances sentencing under joint enterprise has acted as a dragnet. For families, victims and offenders, this judgement should prompt more precise and proportionate decisions at each stage in the criminal justice process.

“The court's ruling that the law "took a wrong turning" will undoubtedly bring back to court cases where the original outcome was unjust. It is impossible to say how many cases this will affect but it is essential that resources are provided to allow appeals to be considered promptly.”

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On Wednesday 10 February Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP delivered a speech at a packed workshop in Edinburgh on Women and Criminal Justice in Scotland, jointly organised by the Prison Reform Trust and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum, to review progress towards implementing the Angiolini Commission recommendations to reduce the unnecessary imprisonment of women in Scotland.

Yvonne Donald is Programme Manager for Scotland and is based in Edinburgh with Families Outside, who are jointly leading the work to support the change of direction in Scotland in favour of small custodial units and community-based provision.

Michael Matheson’s speech was delivered ahead of an announcement by the Scottish Government, that HMP Cornton Vale would close. This is to allow preparatory work to begin ahead of the construction of a new national prison, which will hold significantly fewer women.

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