Women’s Breakout policy update 23 October to 25 November 2016

Policy, legislation and parliamentary highlights relevant to women, criminal justice and the women’s community sector in England.

Highlights this month:

  • On 3 November 2016 Justice Secretary Liz Truss announced a range of measures in a “Prison Safety and Reform” White Paper including: increasing numbers of prison officers; measures to decrease drug use; track prisoners’ progress in English and Maths; league tables to drive reforms; and a new duty for Secretary of State intervention when prisons are failing. (See below for more.)
  • On 9 November MOJ announced it will be providing £800,000 to support local areas to develop a joined-up, multi-agency approach to improve support for female offenders and other women with complex needs who may be at risk of offending. £200,000 will be available in each of the financial years from 2016/17 to 2019/20.
  • An MOJ review into Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic disproportionality in the Criminal Justice System in England and Wales found the pattern of disproportionality across the CJS for BAME adult males and females was broadly similar. For example, both black and mixed ethnic women were greater than 2 times more likely to be arrested than white women.
  • 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, in the role of local authorities in supporting women with multiple needs found that most of the solutions to preventing women’s offending lie outside the justice system.

MOJ Prison Safety and Reform White Paper

Of particular interest to our sector, are plans to:
1.    build and open five new community prisons for women as part of a wider prison modernisation programme;
2.    examine the feasibility of whether prison officers should develop specialist roles for working with prisoner segments that have identified needs, such as young adults, women, and elderly prisoners; and
3.    publish a female offenders strategy for improving the safety and reform of women in custody and in the community in early 2017.

Community prisons
The White Paper states that a significant proportion of women prisoners are housed in accommodation at a higher security level than they need. Few women have the opportunity to spend time in an open prison prior to release, and many do not have access to resettlement services as a result.

Community prisons will focus on preparing women for release, in a similar way to resettlement prisons, so women are held closer to their homes and given the support services they need. These prisons will have close links with service providers in the community, and their smaller size will help improve the effectiveness of the resettlement services and support provided. Government will seek to use land adjacent to existing sites to get economies of scale, whilst maintaining the feel of separate institutions.

Women’s strategy 
A strategy for improving the safety and reform of female offenders in custody and in the community is due in early 2017. This will look at how we can reduce the number of women offending and ending up in custody, including through early and targeted interventions.

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