Submitted by: The Prison Reform Trust; Proposer: Juliet Lyon, Director (Prison Reform Trust); Seconder: Wendy, Recruitment Manager, former prisoner
The National Council of Women, noting with concern the excessive numbers of women in prison in the UK, (i) aware that many women in prison have mental health problems and/or drug and alcohol addictions, have spent time in care, and/or have experienced domestic violence, including sexual abuse, (ii) aware too that most women in prison serve short sentences for non-violent offences, (iii) noting that sending women to prison is often unnecessary and ineffective in reducing reoffending, and carries a huge cost to women, children and wider society, (iv) conscious of the broad consensus that community solutions, tailored to women’s needs, are generally more effective than prison in reducing women’s offending and minimising the cost to society, (v) aware that there is currently no clear government strategy or sustainable funding to support the widespread availability of such community solutions and the reduction in numbers of women being sent to prison, callsupon Her Majesty’s Government to ensure:
(a) that a rigorous, cross-Departmental strategy is developed and implemented with urgency to divert women from crime, reduce the women’s prison population, and reduce offending and reoffending by women;
(b) that this strategy acts on the findings of recent major reviews and research into women’s justice such as the Wedderburn and Corston Reviews and specifically the consensus that community solutions work better than prison;
(c) that, through this strategy, community services that have been shown to be effective in preventing and reducing crime by women, including women’s centres, are made available throughout the country to women and families who are in need;
(d) that, through this strategy, a wide range of effective alternatives to custody for women is made available to courts consistently across the country;
(e) that these measures are undertaken at national and local level through co-operation between government departments and local services, justice, health and housing amongst others, and that they are driven forward by strong leadership at the highest level, and by structures for delivery that ensure transparency and accountability.