Efforts to reduce the number of women in prison for non-violent offences have received a significant boost, with £520,000 of National Lottery funding. Announced today (16 August), the funding will extend the Prison Reform Trust's Transforming Lives Programme.

The UK-wide programme has over the last three years successfully advocated for early intervention and more effective responses to women in trouble with the law—working with national and local governments, statutory agencies, and voluntary and community sector organisations.

Women are more likely to be in custody for non-violent offences, and as a result many serve short spells behind bars which do little to tackle the causes of their offending. But community options, which have been shown to have better outcomes, including for the women themselves, are both underused and under resourced.

This continuation funding from the Big Lottery Fund, the UK’s largest funder of community activity in the UK, will extend the programme for a further two years, allowing PRT to maximise its impact and build on its successes to date. The programme has identified and encouraged the spread of good practice in working with women in contact with the criminal justice system; gathered and disseminated evidence, and ensured that the voices of often-marginalised women are heard.

Work during the first three years has laid the groundwork, building a strong case and widespread support for a more effective response to women's offending through evidence and advocacy. But further support for the programme by the Big Lottery Fund comes at a critical point. The programme has been influential to the development of the long-awaited Female Offender Strategy in England and Wales as well as informing and supporting progress in Scotland and Northern Ireland. But ensuring that promises translate into meaningful action will require continued vigilance and pressure and a concerted focus on working with local areas with high levels of custody.

Commenting, Jenny Earle, Director of the Prison Reform Trust’s Transforming Lives Programme to Reduce Women’s Imprisonment said:

"I am delighted that our important work can continue. This National Lottery funding will enable us to build on our successes to date and sustain the momentum during this critical moment, delivering better responses to women's offending that help us all. Too many women are still being sent to prison for non-violent offending, often for short periods, that can blight their lives forever."

Commenting, Joe Ferns, UK Funding Director at the Big Lottery Fund, said:

“The Prison Reform Trust’s work is vital to improving the lives of women across the UK. They put women who have been in contact with the criminal justice system at the heart of their work, ensuring their voices are heard in order to deliver real, effective change. This National Lottery funding will enable the programme to grow from strength to strength, helping even more women to be supported in the future.”