The Guardian recently published a welcome article on women in the prison estate. Entitled UK penal system designed by men for men, it focusses on the work of Alana House, an innovative women’s community solution in Reading and West Berkshire that uses a holistic approach to support women by empowering them to take control of their lives.
Alana House was opened in April 2010, adopting the recommendations from the Corston Report, which identified the key criminogenic pathways for women and the different approach needed to support them. Initially established to support women offenders in the community, Alana House has developed over the years to support any vulnerable and distressed women with complex needs within the local community.
There are around 4,000 women in prison today. That’s less than 5% of the total prison population but many more have been affected at some point in their lives. The majority are sentenced for non-violent offences and Seven in 10 women entering prison are sent there to serve sentences of six months or less.
Last year, one in four was sentenced to 30 days or less, and almost 300 women were given sentences of two weeks or less. That may sound short but can be so disruptive that women lose their jobs, homes and contact with their children. One in five women in prison is released without somewhere to live.
Alana House is calling for major inquiry into the sentencing of women in England and Wales and are pushing for the recommendations of the 2007 Corston report to be implemented in full.