Ministry of Justice
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Women prison places reduced to fund community services

Vulnerable women offenders are to get more support in the community to turn away from crime.

Yesterday Justice Minister Maria Eagle announced a commitment to reduce women's prison places by 400 before March 2012 so funding can be diverted for specialist services in the community.

Prison is the right place for the most dangerous, seriously persistent and violent offenders and we will always ensure there are enough places for such people. However, the majority of women offenders have multiple and complex needs that commonly include mental health problems, drug and alcohol misuse, sexual and domestic abuse and concerns about their children's welfare. These needs can be better met in the community to address their offending behaviour and divert them from crime.

In the last couple of years, since Baroness Corston's report was published on women in the criminal justice system, there has already been a reduction in the number of women in prison and an encouraging increase in the use of community orders for female offenders.

Maria Eagle MP and Ministerial Champion for Women and Criminal Justice Matters said:

'We have already made good progress in taking forward our strategy to divert women from crime. Over the last two years I have ensured there is a specific push to direct resources to stop vulnerable women from becoming trapped in a cycle of crime. Women's offending is a complex phenomenon which burden's society, damage children and families, and creates misery for the women themselves.

'Earlier this year I announced £15.6 million of new funding over two years to invest in women's community projects delivered by the third sector and other specialist provision for women in the community. These projects provide services for female offenders who are not a danger to the public, and those who are at risk of offending. We need to have a system that reforms offenders as well as punishes.'

The women's community projects will offer courts a tough and credible alternative to short prison sentences. They will all tackle women's needs in order to reduce their risk of further offending. Many of the projects will offer Community Payback work and supervision requirements as part of a Community Order, enabling women to address their offending behaviour in addition to being punished for their offence. These sentences can be more effective in cutting further offending.

A report published today on the government's strategy for diverting women away from crime gives a commitment to:

  • reduce the women's prison estate by 300 places by March 2011 and 400 places by March 2012 and divert resources from custody to the community to sustain the grant funded multi-agency community services.
  • provide up to £5 million to improve Approved Premises accommodation for women offenders who are being closely supervised on release from custody, and for women offenders with high levels of need to keep them out of custody.
  • make available funding of over £1 million to pilot a new project, from April 2010, to explore the benefits of early intervention for women with multiple needs from their first point of contact with the criminal justice system. Family intervention projects will target this group of women and their dependent children in up to 20 areas in England to provide intensive personalised support in a community setting. Dedicated key-workers will provide intensive support to vulnerable women and their families.


    Notes to editors
  1. Baroness Jean Corston, published her independent Review of Women in the Criminal Justice System with Particular Vulnerabilities in March 2007. The purpose of the Review was to look at the measures in place to ensure we were doing everything possible for women with particular vulnerabilities who come into contact with the criminal justice system.
  2. For more information please contact the Ministry of Justice Press Office on 020 33 34 35 36.
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