Women

The Prison Reform Trust has published Triage and diversion: Getting it Right 24/7, the report of a seminar held with Police Scotland earlier this year to consider the benefits and opportunities of early interventions for women. The briefing will inform an event in Edinburgh on Monday 27 November entitled Creating A Diversion - ending unnecessary imprisonment and punishment of women in the criminal justice system. The event is organised by the Scottish Working Group on Women Offenders together with the Prison Reform Trust and WFI Justice for Women, supported by Community Justice Scotland.

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Sarah Newton MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Crime, Safeguarding and Vulnerability, spoke today (17 October 2017) at a high-level roundtable in London to consider the links between domestic abuse and offending by some women, and what can be done to improve criminal justice responses in this area.
 
The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) organised the event in consultation with Against Violence and Abuse (AVA) with support from the Big Lottery Fund as part of PRT’s three-year National Lottery funded programme to reduce women’s imprisonment.

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The Prison Reform Trust has launched a briefing today exclusively with BBC Radio 5 Live Drive on the contribution of women’s centres to reducing women’s offending. The one page briefing condenses the important evidence underpinning women’s centres, and had been launched on the same day as the Ministry of Justice’s independent advisory board for female offenders met.

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We are delighted that the National Council of Women Great Britain (NCW) has reaffirmed their commitment to seeing fewer women in prison, with a motion passed unanimously at their annual conference on 7 October. The Prison Reform Trust’s Programme Director for Reducing Women’s Imprisonment, Jenny Earle, spoke in favour of the motion alongside NCW members Heather Carter and Coralyn Burge, drawing attention to the high levels of non-violent, acquisitive crime committed by women, addictions, primary caring responsibilities and histories of abuse. 

Commenting, Jenny Earle said:

"NCW is an influential organisation and Prison Reform Trust is proud to be affiliated. The NCW’s call to ensure that fewer women are sent to prison and that the provision of community-based solutions is improved, especially for women with dependent children is timely, and one the Government should take heed of ahead of the publication of the forthcoming strategy for women offenders.”

Find out more about why we should focus on reducing the number of women in prison by clicking here

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Black and mixed ethnicity women are more than twice as likely as white women in the general population to be arrested, according to a new report published today (31 August) by the Prison Reform Trust.

Black women are also more likely than other women to be remanded or sentenced to custody, and are 25% more likely than white women to receive a custodial sentence following a conviction, the report reveals. Black, Asian and minority ethnic women make up 11.9% of the women’s population in England and Wales, but account for 18% of the women’s prison population.

This report, Counted Out, is timely and has been submitted to the Lammy review ahead of its launch in September, to highlight the overlooked inequalities experienced by many Black, Asian and minority ethnic women in the criminal justice system.

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The number of women in prison in England and Wales has exceeded 4,000 for the first time in four-and-a-half years. Ministry of Justice figures released today show the female prison population currently stands at 4,007.

The latest edition of Prison: the facts (Bromley briefings summer 2017), published this month and covered exclusively on BBC Radio Four Woman’s Hour, shows an increase of 200 women in prison in the past year has pushed the female prison population towards this significant watershed after years of gradual but sustained decline in the numbers of women behind bars. The briefing highlights facts and figures which show the beleaguered state of our overcrowded prison system and the men and women in its care.

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Angiolini five years on

15/06/2017 08:47:00

The Scottish Working Group on Women Offenders is holding an event at the Scottish Parliament today, Thursday 15 June, to review progress five years on from the publication of Dame Elish Angiolini’s report of the Commission on Women Offenders.   Professor Nancy Loucks, Chief Executive of Families Outside, is presenting and will talk about the Transforming Lives programme’s work to reduce women’s imprisonment in Scotland.

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Commenting on the Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics published today, Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

"The message from these deeply alarming numbers could not be any clearer. An overcrowded prison system cannot cope with the number of people it is expected to hold. People are being maimed and dying in unprecedented numbers as a direct consequence. Two years of positive rhetoric from the government about prison reform has done nothing to stop a relentless decline in safety. There is no end in sight, and a new government must make a reduction in imprisonment a top priority."

The Ministry of Justice's safety in custody statistics (quarterly update to December 2016) are available here.

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Commenting on today's report by the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, Peter Dawson, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“This is a heartbreaking report. Following public outcry more than 10 years ago, lessons looked like they had been learned. However this rapid reversal is yet another symptom of a system under more pressure than it can bear. The promised strategy for women offenders needs to set out how a much higher proportion of this intensely vulnerable group of women can be diverted from the criminal justice system altogether. There is rare political consensus for a radically different approach, and the government must seize the opportunity it presents to save lives in future.”

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New research published today by the Prison Reform Trust reveals significant variations in how police forces deal with women who come into the criminal justice system. Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest provides solutions and examples of positive work being delivered by police to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women. However, the report also found that opportunities are being missed to intervene early, reduce women’s offending and protect the public.

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Scotland has one of the highest rates of women’s imprisonment in northern Europe, a new report published today (8 March) on international women's day by the Prison Reform Trust reveals.

The report found that for every 100,000 women in Scotland, seven are held in prison, considerably higher than most countries in northern Europe, and more than double the rate in France (3.3 per 100,000).

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The number of women in prison is in danger of rising as new threats place further pressure on an already beleaguered prison system, according to a new briefing published today (9 February) by the Prison Reform Trust.

A sharp rise in the number of recalls to custody; increasing use of suspended sentence orders; and the continued decline in the number of community orders risk more women ending up behind bars.

Nearly 10 years after the publication of Baroness Corston’s seminal review on women in the criminal justice system, Why Women?, has uncovered new figures showing that the number of women recalled to custody following their release has increased by over two-thirds (68%) since the end of 2014. Women recalled to custody now account for 8% of the total women’s prison population.

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Local authorities have a crucial role to play in helping women get the support they need to stay out of trouble, according to a joint report by the Prison Reform Trust, the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services, the Centre for Mental Health, and the Education Policy Institute.

Local councils know and understand their communities. Their leadership can provide strategic oversight, and collaboration and coordination with other agencies to deliver necessary support to women in contact with, or on the edges of the criminal justice system. Existing partnerships bring together local organisations that have the means of transforming the lives of women and their families. This approach has the potential to make financial savings for local councils and improve outcomes for women and the wider community.

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Commenting on today's report by HM Inspectorate of Probation, Jenny Earle, Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme for reducing women’s imprisonment, said:

"Inspectors have confirmed what many have suspected—that tackling offending by women remains an afterthought in spite of a statutory duty on rehabilitation services to take account of their specific needs. Many of these women are mothers and their offending is often driven by addictions and past victimisation. The government already know the solutions, yet chronically under-invests in the services—including women centres, mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment and safe accommodation—that would help women to turn their lives around."

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Six in 10 women do not have homes to go to on release from prison, a report published today by the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison has found.

Home truths: housing for women in the criminal justice system, says that the failure to solve a chronic shortage of suitable housing options for women who offend leads to more crime, more victims and more unnecessary and expensive imprisonment.

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Today the Prison Reform Trust publishes a proposal for the establishment of a women’s centre on the site of the existing visitors centre at HMP Holloway, which is due to close later this month.

On the 1 December 2015, Juliet Lyon wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice following his announcement of the closure of Holloway with a challenging proposal to work with strategic partners including MOPAC, Islington London Borough Council, NHS London, the Metropolitan Police, London Community Rehabilitation Company and women’s voluntary organisations to retain the HMP Holloway visitors centre (a purpose built space refurbished by the Tudor Trust) as a women’s centre.

To date the proposal has attracted both cross-party and pan-London support. In his response to PRT on the 16 December 2015, Secretary of State Michael Gove set out his commitment to reduce the women’s prison population and confirmed at a Justice Committee meeting on the 16 March 2016 that the proposal was ‘a good idea’ and was under consideration by the Ministry of Justice.

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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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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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Commenting on David Cameron's call to rethink of the way the prison system in England and Wales treats pregnant women and mothers with babies, Juliet Lyon, Director of Prison Reform Trust, said: 

"There is huge sense in making sure that women pay back for what they have done in the community rather than suffer harsh separation from babies and toddlers in prison and the long term damage that does."

The Prison Reform Trust recently published a discussion paper, Sentencing of Mothers, proposes a number of reforms to reduce the number of children separated from their mothers through imprisonment. The paper considers sentencing policy, process and practice through a review of case law and research evidence, talking to mothers in prison, and consultations with key individuals and organisations.

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An explosion in the use of indeterminate sentences and the increased use of long determinate sentences are key drivers behind the near doubling of prison numbers in the past two decades. The latest edition of the Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile, published today (30 November) by the Prison Reform Trust, reveals the cost of our addiction to imprisonment in wasted time, money and lives.

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Commenting on today’s (25 November 2015) announcement, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Selling off Holloway for social housing is the clearest message to the courts that prison is not the place to dump vulnerable women who have committed petty, non-violent offences and who have so often been victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse themselves. The money raised must be invested in effective community sentences and women’s centres and not just funnelled down the prison building drain.

"Justice Ministers across the UK are saying that they will act to reduce the needless imprisonment of women. This means that women who have offended will have their first real opportunity to beat drugs, drink, mental illness and crime, and take responsibility for their lives, and those of their children. Most will take it."

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Over 9,000 women were received into prison last year, most of them for non-violent offences, many of them leaving dependent children behind. An estimated 17,240 children, including many under 5 years old, are separated from their mothers by imprisonment. The impact on children can be profound and long-lasting – including increased risks of mental illness and anti-social behaviour. Only 5% of children with a mother in prison are able to stay in the family home – and only 9% are cared for by their fathers. By contrast, most children with an imprisoned father remain with their mother.

In a discussion paper published today (24 November), the Prison Reform Trust considers sentencing policy, process and practice through a review of case law and research evidence, talking to mothers in prison, and consultations with key individuals and organisations. Based on this analysis, it proposes a number of reforms to reduce the number of children separated from their mothers through imprisonment.

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Too many women, many of whom are mothers, are sent to prison every year to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes, often for a first offence, a new Prison Reform Trust (PRT) briefing reveals.

The briefing marks the launch of a drive by the Prison Reform Trust,  supported by a £1.2 million grant from the Big Lottery Fund, to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for minor non-violent offences.

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