Ministry of Justice
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Maria Eagle sets out progress in dealing with women offenders
Further initiatives to support women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system were set out today by Maria Eagle MP, Ministerial Champion for Women in the Criminal Justice System.
Publishing the Government's six-month progress report on Baroness Corston's independent review of women in the criminal justice system that have specific vulnerabilities, Maria Eagle outlined the progress made and the new commitments being considered.
In December 2007 the Government set out their response to the Corston review and in May 2008 a National Service Framework for Women Offenders was published that clearly lays out the Government's strategy for addressing the needs of women offenders.
Today's new commitments include:
* pilots that are now running in five women's prisons testing a new kind of search which does not require the removal of underwear unless there is intelligence or suspicion at any stage that this is necessary. Searches can be intimidating and distressing, particularly for women who have experienced domestic violence or sexual abuse;
* piloting a new approach to providing access to community-based services and residential facilities by agencies working in a more integrated way;
* support to the continued development of the Turnaround project
in Wales that demonstrates the value of multi-agency, multi-sector
work with women offenders; and
* developing specific guidance and support for Offender Managers on how to deal with women offenders.
Maria Eagle, Justice Minister, said
"Baroness Corston set out a clear vision in 2007 of how we should ensure measures are in place for women who come into contact with the criminal justice system. The vulnerabilities which characterise many women in the Criminal Justice System include mental health problems, drug misuse, sexual and domestic abuse and concerns about their children's welfare cannot be ignored.
"By getting to the route of the very specific problems encountered by many of the women who end up in prison, we can contribute to the wider goal of a safer society. We want to ensure sentences in each individual case are tailored to tackle their offending behaviour and its causes to cut re-offending.
"I have been chairing an Inter-Ministerial group to look at the options and we have taken several steps so far to produce plans on diverting women offenders from custody into community provision where that is appropriate. These options will be developed over the coming months to create a deliverable plan of action.
"For those women who really do need to be imprisoned, we are dedicated to ensuring they are held in conditions that are appropriate and meets women's needs. We also committed £40 million this year to ensure magistrates have tough and effective community sentences at their disposal."
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.
Notes to Editors
A copy of the WMS and Progress report published today can be found on the Ministry of Justice website - http://www.justice.gov.uk