Prison doesn’t work for women

04/12/2018
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04/12/2018

Prison doesn’t work for women

Earlier this year Napo gave evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System inquiry into the sentencing of women. The APPG published its findings last month and the report ‘Sentencers and sentenced: exploring knowledge, agency and sentencing of women in prison”

The APPG is chaired by Baroness Jean Corston and the new inquiry followed on from her report on women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, which was published some 10 years ago.

The Corston review recommended that community solutions should be norm for women convicted of non-violent offences however, since then, the number of community sentences for women has almost halved and more women than ever are being sent to prison to serve extremely short sentences.

The new inquiry found:

  • Women who become tangled up in the criminal justice system are among the most disadvantaged and vulnerable people in society, and prison makes things worse not better for them.
  • Evidence published by the Ministry of Justice shows that short sentences are less effective than community sentences at supporting people to desist from crime.
  • Despite this evidence, women continue to be sent to prison, overwhelmingly for short periods, while the number of community sentences has decreased.
  • The failures of the Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms have undermined magistrates’ confidence in community sentences
  • Magistrates often lack knowledge about the circumstances of women’s lives and the likely impact of prison, as well as about what specialist provision for women is available in their local area.
  • Magistrates can diverge from sentencing guidelines if it is in the interests of justice to do so. However, custody is often viewed as the only option for those who offend repeatedly, despite evidence that prison is least effective for this group.

It recommends that:

  • Custodial sentences of less than 12 months should be abolished for women
  • Any future probation model should include ring-fenced funding for the provision of specialist services for women.

The full report can be found on the Howard League website https://howardleague.org/publications/sentencers-and-sentenced/

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