Centre for Women’s Justice welcomes the Female Offender Strategy’s commitment to reducing the women’s prison population and acknowledgement of the intergenerational harm perpetuated by custodial sentences for women’s law breaking, which is less frequent and less serious than that of men.
It is however worrying that pitiful amounts of funding are being diverted from criminal justice to community-based services. Women in prison often have traumatic histories of sexual and physical abuse, domestic violence, trafficking, exploitation, institutional care, periods of homelessness, racism, substance misuse, mental illness and self-harm. These experiences of trauma also inform women’s response to imprisonment; the Strategy itself recognises that “[t]he prevalence of anxiety and self-harm incidents is greater than for male prisoners.” The poverty and inequality which underpins women’s offending demand redress through properly funded community services such as refuges and rape crisis centres, gender appropriate community schemes like Women’s Centres and drug and alcohol services.
Commenting on the Strategy, CWJ Trustee Davina James-Hanman said,
“We welcome the recognition of the multiple issues facing female offenders and warmly welcome the move towards community-based services rather than the pointlessly destructive short sentences - as recommended by Baroness Corston over a decade ago. However, we are deeply concerned at the funding crisis being faced by Women's Centres. Without additional resources, many will cease to exist and the high hopes of this strategy will turn out to be empty words.”
The Ministry of Justice Female Offender Strategy for women in the criminal justice system can be read here.