Justice CommitteeWritten submission from Kazuri Kazuri is a social enterprise that places vulnerable women leaving domestic violence, prison, on license in the community or at risk of or already facing homelessness, into sustainable homes in the private rented sector. Kazuri empower women by providing them with: a bespoke package of support called a “route map” which is co-designed with a peer advocate, trained in tenancy support and coaching and mentoring; monthly tenancy health checks,; an introduction to services delivered by partnerships with ethical providers in the private and voluntary sectors for counselling, training, employment, restorative justice and other issues.

Responses to questions

Q1: The nature and effectiveness of the Ministry of Justice’s strategy for women offenders and those at risk of offending

Answer:

1. Non-existent. NOMS claims to be making strident progress in implementing many of the recommendations in Baroness Corston’s report. We see no evidence of this, on the contrary, the Women Awareness Staff Programme training course for staff and volunteers working in prisons which NOMS has developed in response to the Corston recommendation that there should be training and monitoring for all those charged with meeting the complex needs of women has been undertaken by 2,000 staff or thereabouts, 1,000 in the last financial year alone, in order to embed gender Specific Standards for Women in all areas of prison regimes. There are over 76,000 staff employed in the Ministry of Justice and at the end of December 2010, there were 50,695 prison staff. 2,000 staff doesn’t even represent the prison staff just in the female estate. The Corston Review was published in 2007, five years later only a tiny percentage of frontline staff have undertaken this training which demonstrates the lack of priority in NOMS agenda. This should be made mandatory for every person whether uniformed staff or maintenance person, likely to come into contact with a serving prisoner in the female estate.

Incidentally, this is the only active occurrence of anything specifically to do with women prisoners that we can find.

1.1 In any event, Corston has been sidelined and its valuable insights ignored. We were advised by the erstwhile Secretary of State, Minister of Justice, Rt Hon Ken Clarke that the coalition government had no intention of adhering to any of Corston’s recommendations, they would deploy a new women’s strategy. They did just this by eliminating the Women’s Strategy Unit so now women are grouped in with young offenders and there is no specialised unit to look at women’s issues in the whole of the strategy or reducing reoffending unit. This must be addressed immediately. Whilst a women’s unit does exist in NOMS, its function is deployment of service and policy rather than policy formation.

1.2 Prescriptive response: A new inclusive strategy must be developed to make women in the criminal justice system a priority, amend existing legislation and effect change.

Q2: The nature and effectiveness of Ministry of Justice governance structures for women’s offending

2.1 There are no effective governance structures deployed for women’s reoffending, in spite of protestations to the contrary by NOMS, Ministry of Justice etc. Women’s problems and the challenges facing them are not adequately met or at all. What options do they really have but to reoffend if they can’t get housing, help with mental or physical health and to rebuild social bonds?

2.2 Prescriptive response: New MoJ lead Women’s Justice Task Force to work in partnership with Police and Crime Commissioners, local Wellbeing Boards, Probation Trusts, CPS, Lawyers, Law Society, Sentencing Board, Parole Board, Community Safety teams, Magistrates’ Association, ACPO, Police Federation, NHS Confederation, solicitors and barristers as well as academics and ex-offenders to co-create a forward thinking policy framework which meets women specific issues (locations of prisons, addressing unfair sentencing, distance from children and family, housing options, education, employment and training, childcare, rebuilding broken social bonds)

Q3: The extent to which work to address the multiple and complex needs of women offenders is integrated across Government

3.1 Answer: The multiple and complex needs of women are not met. It is no answer to say that one size fits all so that there is no need for gender specific interventions.

3.2 Prescriptive response: A diversion program piloted with the cooperation of the DWP and the Courts and initiated by the Women’s Institute and Prison Reform Trust has stalled because of the lack of political will to do anything for women at the highest levels of government. In order to reignite this, a broad base of alliances needs to be formulated through campaigning. Isis Centres across the UK are showing promising results in reducing reoffending in women who are diverted there through the courts. Far more needs to be done by the government to support and increase these alternatives to custody.

Q4: The extent to which the gender equality duty has become a lever for mainstream service commissioners—outside of the criminal justice system—to provide services which tackle the underlying causes of female offending

4.1 Answer: There is no provision for organisations outside government to adhere to any form of gender equality duty, indeed why should they when the people at the heart of government have not impact assessed for equality the recently Legal Aid and Sentencing of Offenders Act. We are advised repeatedly an equality impact assessment was undertaken however this has never been produced.

4.2 Prescriptive response; The framework for provision exists, through gender mainstreaming which the UK as a signatory is meant to ensure in all its legislation, agreements and partnerships with other member states and internally. Society’s structures and practices and the relationship between women and men we need a radical rethink to root out the deep-seated and often hidden causes of inequality. This tool is called the gender mainstreaming approach. UN Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non Custodial Measures for Women Offenders (The Bangkok Rules) can be further implemented into the UK’s policy and practise fro dealing with women in the criminal justice system.

Q5: The suitability of the women’s custodial estate and prison regimes. The volume, range, quality, and sustainability of community provision for female offenders, including approved premises

5.1 Answer: We feel there is no suitable community provision in spite of the Ministry of Justice/DWP pilots for diversion, under the Care not Custody initiative for women , and our own research shows that women would rather finish their prison sentences than go to Stonham BASS Hostels. There was funding to support women in these hostels but that has also been cut. These premises do not meet the government’s own decent homes standards and much must be done to bring about a benchmark bottom line as a quality indicator for premises being offered to ex offenders or those on bail.

5.2 Prescriptive Response: The charities who operate in the business of housing to ex offenders are not regulated by real estate bodies such as the Property Ombudsman or ARLA or even Local Authority landlord registration schemes. These premises are not safe and we urge the Justice Committee to recommends that Probation Trusts, and other housing providers put basic measures in place to ensure at least a decent homes specification is met and that ex offenders are supported in these premises. Homelessness charities hinder not help the plight of the ex offender with their campaigns to alienate landlords and criminalise the whole private rented sector because of a few rogue landlords. We seek regulation of the entire sector so that the most vulnerable are protected in their own homes and safety is the underpinning factor upon which to measure success, not cost cutting measures. Work must be done with the DCLG in order to ensure that housing provision for ex offenders provided by Registered Social Landlords meet at the very minimum the decent homes specification. Some good work has been done by the Inter-ministerial Committee to End Homelessness, housed in the DCLG, with civil servants and ministers across various departments as members, however more needs to be done to address the specific needs of homeless women.

6. The availability of appropriate provision for different groups of women offenders, including, under 18s, women with children, foreign nationals and black, Asian and minority ethnic women, and those with mental health problems

This question was answered by Shahida Begum, a criminal defence solicitor.

6.1 Answer: little or nothing available to take into account cultural and racial differences, even the most basic allowances for food, reading material and prayer times are not integrated into the mainframe of the prison regime. Mental health issues are not dealt with, every single woman we surveyed at HMP East Sutton Park claimed she had not received mental health or basic GP assistance. Women in prison have no status. For immigrants and refugees this is worse.

6.2 Prescriptive Response

Approximately 25% of women in prisons are BME (compared with a 2% baseline population). There are high proportions of foreign nationals. Most are on drug offences. Change can only come from within the system. Prisoners need to be involved in the wholesale overhaul of the UK female prison estate. This government and preceding ones have attempted to impose policy and practise on women which doesn’t fit or meet their needs. In all 14 women’s prisons across the country, there is very little in terms of providing women with advice regarding their housing, legal, financial, education and employment rights.

6.3 Change must focus inter alia, through developing and promoting practical interventions. Women diagnosed with a mental health issue can be transferred from a prison to a secure ward or hospital—based on an internal mental health review and not a judicial review. For example, a woman could go to prison for shop lifting, in prison she may develop a mental health issue, when her sentence has been served, she is sent to hospital.

6.4 Prevalence of domestic violence and unresolved traumas among women in secure settings. The likely mental health issues facing women include, flashbacks, staff attitudes, children—anxiety, abandonment, separation self injury, anger, institutionalisation, trust, betrayal, internalised emotions, seclusions, isolation, sensory deprivation and racism. Over 60% of women are receiving treatment for a mental disorder in prison. A high proportion – approximately 70%—is diagnosed with personality disorders. Horrifyingly, Black women in secure settings are 20% more likely to be diagnosed with psychosis.

6.5 The needs of women offenders however, including, under 18s, women with children, foreign nationals and BME women, and those with mental health problems appear to be ignored by the system and this is evidenced by the absence of research and actuarial data into their evidently different offence-related needs which has limited the ability of this minority within a minority to mount a direct challenge on current practice.

6.6 Often the story of all offenders is one of survival, of conditions not of their making, conditions brought on by bad choices and illegal acts and by existing in the prison world. Approximately, 65% disclose physical/sexual abuse in childhood/teenage years compared with 80% in secure settings who report sexual abuse.

6.7 These women should be supported and not punished. Punishment is a concept the majority is most familiar whether it is neglect, indifference or abuse. It is fundamental that a needs based approach is adopted and a plan to tackle inequalities is acknowledged and then translated into effective practice.

6.8 These women do not want to be treated the same as everyone else because similar treatment affects people differently. Minority groups find that a neutral rule of treating everyone the same burdens them disproportionately. For example, a UK prison that issued books in the English language available to all prisoners would be treating all prisoners the same but not equally in the relevant respect: Equal treatment requires each prisoner to have access to a book that they can read.

6.9 Every prisoner has an equal right to worship according to their religious beliefs but the system fails to recognise the observable manifestations of its exercise have nothing in common.

6.10 Those that have worked with women prisoner’s realise they do all they can and without them it might be worse. We might only make a difference for one person but it might be the difference between life and death2. How many more mothers will have to commit suicide, like Pauline Chapman, the mother of prisoner Tracey Chapman did, on their daughters’ graves, for the plight of women in the criminal justice system to be heard?

6.11 By this submission we do not assume in advance that a criminal justice system which takes account of more differences is more just than a system which takes account of fewer. Rather, the cultural, racial or religious minority status is just as relevant to a just and equitable female prison estate as is the law that detains them.

November 2012

APPENDIX A

Survey with Responses

Below are the questions and responses taken from a survey conducted on 24 women in custody from HMP East Sutton Park open prison.

1. How old are you?

18–21

22–39

40–50

50+

Please state your ethnic origin.

3. How many times have you been in custody?

One time only

A few times

Over five times

4. Did you have a choice of which establishment you were sent to?

5. Was the proximity to your family taken into account when the decision was made?

6. How often do you see your children under the age of sixteen?

7. How well do you rate the establishment’s ability and desire to help you maintain close ties to your family, particularly your children?

8. How well do you feel the establishment deals with your healthcare needs in relation to your mental health well-being?

9. How well do you feel the establishment deals with your healthcare needs in relation to your physical well being?

10. Does the establishment offer a well woman clinic?

11. Do feel the educational courses available meet your specific needs?

12. How effectively do you think the establishment responds to the religious diversity needs of the residents?

How effectively do you think the establishment responds to the cultural diversity needs of the residents?

14. Do you feel you have been given effective help to help you deal with the problems that led you to offend?

15. Do you feel you have been given effective help to help you deal with any problems that may lead you to re-offend?

16. What more do you think could have been done to reduce the risk of re-offending?

17. Do you feel your sentence could have been better served in the community?

18. If you have answered yes, please give a suggested alternative

19. Do you feel there are sufficient housing options available upon release, particularly if you have to live in a hostel?

20. Please use the following lines to suggest an alternative to a custodial sentence which you believe you would have benefitted from?

(Note: Responses to this question were collected by Shahida Begum)

APPENDIX B

CASE STUDIES

Case Study 2010—Ongoing

AA is the sister of the murdered SA, brutally killed at the hands of her first generation Mirpuri parents, who are of South Asian origin. AA witnessed the so-called honour killing because the sister refused to comply with the parents’ backward and outdated expectations of how a healthy, sexualised, vibrant 17 year old girl should live. Her four younger siblings were also present at the time of the murder which took place in the family home. Social services, the school, the family and the wider community all knew of the problems SA was facing, she was constantly running away from home and people outside the family had voiced their concerns about the levels of abuse the young woman faced.

The police were unable to bring the parents to trial as the community and indeed statutory services working to protect and safeguard the sister while he aw still alive, had drawn a veil of silence around the murder. After killing her parents had disposed of the body by a river and also threatened the younger siblings with violence if they ever attempted to disclose the grisly details around the murder of SA. Seven years later AA was arrested for staging an armed burglary at the family home. She was subsequently arrested and under the pressure of questioning, she broke down and gave videotaped evidence about what really happened the day her sister was killed. Finally the parents were arrested and brought to trial. AA was placed in witness protection.

She contacted me through a mutual friend and wanted to talk about my experiences with the criminal justice system, she asked if she could come to London. I realised this would entail her leaving WP and I told her to ask the police responsible for her care if this was possible. Eventually, after a few days delay, she decided to run away to London as the police had little concept of the cultural issues around the murder or the enormous pressure placed on AA and the threats and implications that bore down on her, weighing her every decision and filling her with fear, indeed paralysing her. The police charged with her protection had forced her to see a psychiatrist who prescribed antidepressants which were far too strong and left her , as she described it, in a “zombified state.” AA contacted a friend of mine and asked me to help her, she wanted to tell her story to the press and journalists. My immediate concerns were for her physical safety and emotional well being. She arrived completely traumatised and fragile, not only because she had to relive, in great detail, every nightmare second of what she had witnessed but also because she had suddenly become a pawn of the state. She was no longer AA, victim of repeated incest and rape since the age of 9, or the young, vulnerable woman who had watched her older sister killed in front of her, or even AA perpetrator of a violent crime against her family. Yet again, hers was the unheard voice, lost in other people’s agendas, yet again, and refined, retuned and retrained to present the best possible case for the CPS to achieve a successful prosecution against the parents.

I found her the best criminal defence solicitors who I thought would protect her interest, in the company of Bindmans and Gareth Pierce and with their assistance I met Southall Black Sisters, the go-to-group of advocates with AA who said they would assist with housing and trauma counselling. This didn’t happen and they advised she go back into WP. Needless to say this was unsatisfactory and she ran away to London again, back to my house in north London. I am not a trained counsellor and 2 years ago when this fragile, depressed and suicidal young woman fell into my life, because she needed help, I was not equipped to deal with this and neither did I have the support of the extensive network of professionals, counsellors and advocates I do today. I had to ask her to leave because her risky behaviour was jeopardising her own security as well as my own. She cried and begged me not to send her back, but after speaking to Gareth Pierce’s representatives, I realised I couldn’t help her. She needed a network of dedicated professionals to help deal with the trauma, the sexual abuse, the incoherent cultural paradigm forced upon her and a whole community to repair her trust and love her back to life.

It was with a really heavy heart I watched the guilty verdict and life sentences the judge delivered to the murdering parents last month. I didn’t feel justice had been done, I felt everyone involved had let AA down and now the case was over, I feared for her safety and security, no effective planning had been done to reconcile her to her new life, her changed identity and the added trauma of leaving witness protection, into the unknown.

My heart cried because it isn’t just me who failed AA, but every social worker, policeman, lawyer and counsellor who had let down her sister and could have helped avoid the tragedy to come, which resulted in her and her siblings’ lives being shattered forever.

We all failed AA, what kind of society do we inhabit that allows such everyday callous wickedness and neglect to go unremarked?

Farah Damji

Meghan

Meghan is 26. Sexually abused as a child, she developed a dependency on alcohol as a coping mechanism.

During her teenage years Meghan was arrested. On more than two occasions she was arrested and charged for crimes that included Theft, Criminal Damage and Being Drunk and Disorderly. Having previously received fines and a conditional discharge (which did not include attending any alcohol misuse groups or therapy). She finally received a custodial sentence.

Each time Meghan appeared in court it was evident from the defence put forward by her solicitor that the abuse she had been subject to as a child and had received no help or support for, contributed to being the main factor of her substance misuse which now also included cocaine. This would lead to her offending.

While serving her sentence, Meghan was put on detox wing and was advised that once she was clean it might be useful for her to attend Alcoholics Anonymous. She did not receive counseling of any type or therapy which may have benefited her; even though she filled out application forms requesting this type of intervention. She was told that, she was not a priority.

Upon release, with determination and self-will Meghan abstained from using cocaine. She went to college and qualified for and subsequently secured employment as a Hairdresser. This gave her the opportunity to gain work experience while she added to her cry by training to become a qualified Nail & Beauty Technician. Once qualified she decided to go it alone as a self employed mobile Hairdresser/Beauty & Nail Technician.

Even though things were going well for Meghan her drinking was once again becoming a problem. When she was alone at home she would drink. Thoughts of her past would haunt her, so she would drink to forget.

One night she went to a local supermarket with every intention to pay for her items, however, she was feeling particularly low and lonely so he old friend “habit” kicked in. She was arrested for shoplifting, taken to the police station and charged. She contacted her solicitor who didn’t seem that surprised (he actually said to her sad as it may seem, he knew that at some point she would need his services again).

The Judge was militant and sent her back to prison he didn’t see what she did as a cry for help. Instead he gave her thirteen months. This might not seem much to some people but during her time in prison Meghan lost all her customers so her business went down the pan, she accumulated rent arrears, debts and a dependency on Subutex (a popular prison drug).

When Meghan was released she was not full of hope and determination. She used her discharge fee to buy some alcohol, before going to collect her car from a friend who had been looking after it. She would then go home to her flat, the one for which she now owed a lot of money in arrears.

On the day she was released, Meghan used her discharge money to buy some alcohol; that she drank on the way to her friend’s house where she was going to collect her car from.

She then had a few more drinks with her friend to celebrate being released. She knew she was over the limit and”never should have got into the car” but she didn’t care. The worse that could happen was that the car would be a write off, “I’d lost my business anyway, so it didn’t matter.”

Meghan is half way through an Imprisonment for Public Protection sentence (IPP) with a four year tariff. On the day of her release from her previous custodial sentence, she blacked out behind the wheel of her car and caused a death by dangerous driving.

Although she has now completed the Rehabilitation addiction prison treatment (Rapt). A five-month intensive intervention programme that uses various methods to identify and address the reasons behind a person’s substance misuse. It also provides ongoing support once the programme has been completed. Meghan has also been referred to the counseling and rehabilitation and through care (Carat’s) team and is now receiving one to one therapy. She attends weekly AA meetings which are held in prison and has an AA sponsor.

With support and encouragement, Meghan is finding some closure on her past. Meghan believes something positive can come out of what has happened.

She is angry at the system. Full of remorse for what she has done and regrets that the help which she is now receiving was not available to her in the past when she so obviously needed it. If it had been, maybe two lives could have been saved.

APPENDIX C

POLICY DESCRIPTION AND OBJECTIVE FOR REDUCED FEMALE OFFENDING

Policy description and objective for reducing female reoffending.

The objective is for the Ministry of Justice to take the lead in creating a workable, dynamic mechanism , a Women’s Justice Taskforce, with a Director accountable directly to the Chief Executive of NOMS. This Taskforce will nominate women’s champions across policy and delivery units within and across Government and then hold accountable multiple Government departments in their delivery of their services to women in order to reduce reoffending and to divert women who are at risk of offending behaviour away from the criminal justice system. Custody should be used as a very last resort and safeguards must be put in place to address self harm and the increased risk of suicide of women prisoners

Description

Objective

Establish a Women’s Justice Commission in NOMS, responsible to the Chief Executive , comprising champions from the following Government departments:
* Ministry of Justice
* Home Office
*Police Commissioners
*DWP
*Department of Health
* Treasury
*Cabinet Office

*Office for Civil Society
*Department of Communities and Local Government

Engaging senior civil servants across government transforming and championing justice for women

Courts and Prisons

Building into existing and future policy women specific provision such as access to childcare if ordered to do community work or community orders, access to women specific mental health programmes

Creating a gender framed perspective which works (evidenced outcomes) within a safe and secure setting for women to meet their court imposed obligations and complete programs without being subjected to harassment or abuse by male offenders/perpetrators of domestic violence or abuse

Formulating policy which addresses the chaotic lives the women with chaotic lives and their multiple needs

Early intervention to divert from repeated reoffending/if offending behaviour is a risk

Creating a mandatory PSO for all prison governors within the female prison estate to provide programs which address sexual and/domestic violence and hose for women who have been involved wit prostitution.

Identify core mental health/trauma and provide a supportive framework for women to address their issues and assist and empower them to create pathways o reduce reoffending and healthy choices and lifestyles

Advocate and embedding mental health diversion for women involved in eth criminal justice system where mental health issues are a factor. A court forensic psychiatrist to assess all women coming before magistrate sand judges in order to address the best outcome and disposal for sentencing

More mental health diversion, within the community so that women’s issues can be dealt with and families are not broken up at great expense

Women offender specific centres for women to attend courses/payback work imposed by the court

Better completion rate, less recidivism, increase the number of women only sentencing options which have a better success rate.

Reduce the number of prison places for women, with a firm commitment to cut the number of overall places down to less than 500, for the most serious and dangerous offenders.

Justice reinvestment into community programs which have evidenced outcomes designed specifically for female offenders

Allocate specific funding to VSOs serving women offenders

equality in Integrated Offender Management arrangements for fair access to data and file sharing and for case management

To create a national framework of women only drug and alcohol rehab centres

Allow women a safe place to detox and reconstruct their lives safely and in sobriety

Presumption of Bail if there is an unlikelihood of a custodial sentence

Allow women to deal with their court cases and other aspects of their lives in the community with proper supervised support

Create a national network of women specific bail hostels, with a wrap around care provision

Address issues around offending behaviour in a safe and stable environment

Abolish all sentences of less than six months and use those savings to fund interventions in the community of women only services

Reduce costs across government for prisons, local authority care costs, emergency and crisis interventions, associated court and police costs

Allow sentencing judges and magistrates greater discretion around breaches

Reduce the number of women in prison recalled/breached

Abolish punitive fines for breaches

Stop the criminal justice carousel, women are less able to pay these fines and therefore are breached more, already. This change to the law would make the situation very much worse.

RESETTLEMENT

Create a document which recognises the high levels of needs of women offenders which straddle multiple government departments

Create a platform for ministers and the public to understand and advocate for change in the current system which punishes women more harshly, more often, Engender support for the proposals which would drastically cut existing costs (justice reinvestment) and reduce female reoffending

Address women’s mental health, drug and alcohol issues

Establish secure housing for women, create a more equal platform of providers who can assist with employment and/qualifications

Incentivise private landlords through bond schemes/advances/guaranteed rent schemes to house women leaving prison/on community sentences, away from unsuitable domestic arrangements or lack of social housing provision

Create stability, reduce reoffending (desistance)

Repatriate children in care, parent counselling/increased access where appropriate

Parental commitments reduce criminality and offending behaviour in women

Deal with existing or historic male abuse

Break cycle of abuse and offending behaviour

Address the increased prevalence of women being convicted for low level offenses

Create more women specific community sentences

Payment by Results and equality, ensuring that all contracts to private companies, VSOs, Third Sector etc who are contracted to deliver resettlement and rehabilitation programs through PBR embed women specific pathways and interventions for at least an agreed percentage of their cohort for the lifetime of the contract

To address women’s issues from a gender based, evidenced outcomes approach

Farah Damji
Kazuri Services Ltd
162 Commercial Road
Whitechapel
London E1 2JY

6 February 2012

WOMEN IN THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM: OPEN LETTER

Thank you for your open letter to the Justice Secretary about women in the criminal justice system, which you handed to Cnspm Blunt, the Minister for Prisons and Probation, along with a DVD of your event last September and your submission on women to R3. I am replying as the lead for women’s strategy within the Ministry of Justice.

Ministers share the view that the criminal justice system must be properly responsive to the needs of women, and recognise that many women offenders who end up in prison have highly complex needs and that too many go through a revolving door of re-offending. The Government is fully committed to addressing women’s offending and ensuring that we make progress so that women are successfully rehabilitated, whether they serve sentences in custody or the community. We are determined to improve community sentences so they better punish and reform offenders.

In Breaking the Cycle: Effective Punishment, Rehabilitation and Sentencing of Offenders we set out the Government’s plans to radically reform cnminal justice through improved punishment, payback and progression of offenders. We have looked very carefully at how these reforms will impact on women, and have given a clear commitment that we will take into account the different profile of women’s offending in achieving this including the reasons underpinning their offending. Further details of our Equality Impact Assessment can be found at http://wwwliustice.QOv.uk/consultations/consultation-040311 ,htm

On 24 January 2012. Crispin Blunt, the Minister for Pnsons and Probation gave a keynote speech to the Corston Independent Funders’ Coalition setting out the Government’s strategy for female offenders, and how women will positively benefit from our priorities for the future of the criminal justice system. This set out our direct plans in a number of key areas, such as mental health, drug recovery, violence against women, troubled families, employment and women’s community services. It also covered our systems wide changes that focus on reoffending and criminal justice reinvestment within a social justice agenda.

Many of these plans require a cross-government approach. We are working with the Department of Health to:

roll out liaison and diversion services in police custody and at courts by 2014 to ensure offenders with mental health, and wider health problems receive treatment in the most appropriate setting;

pilot Drug Recovery Wings for short-sentenced, drug-dependent prisoners. We have already made a joint commitment to implement a second tranche from April 2012, and this will include two women’s prisons (HMP New Hall and HMP Askham Grange) with a third women’s prison to be identified shortly; and

explore how intensive treatment-based alternatives to custody for offenders with drug or mental health problems might work for women. Four women only services (in Wirral, Bristol, Birmingham and Tyneside) are among the selected development sites.

We are also working with the Home Office to deliver the Violence Against Women and Girls Action Plan, including NOMS work with Women’s Aid to improve support for women offenders who have experienced domestic and sexual violence. Many women offenders are the victims of abuse and it is imperative that we do all we can to protect them. Some of our work so far includes:

The recent publication, in conjunction with Women’s Aid, of a Framework “Supporting women offenders who have experienced domestic and sexual violence”. This provides links to resources for practitioners and contains guidance for commissioners of services. It also includes details of many organisations offering support for women in the community; and

Providing training in partnership with Women’s Aid for prison and probation staff to pilot the “Power to Change” programme, which aims to help women who want to leave a violent relationship.

We also want to make prisons a place of work and industry, and improve the way we deliver learning and employment support. Having a job is as important for many women offenders as it is for men, and female prisoners are as likely as men to recognise that employment provides a route out of crime. That is why, as part of our work with the Department of Work and Pensions, we are ensuring that women leaving prison and who claim Jobseekers’ Allowance will also have access to the Work Programme on release.

NOMS is also continuing to make progress in implementing many of the recommendations in Baroness Corston s report, including embedding Gender Specific Standards for women in all areas of prison regimes, and work with Probation Trusts as key deliverers of local services. This includes:

The Women Awareness Staff Programme training course for staff and volunteers working in prisons, now extended to staff and partners in the community, which NOMS has developed in response to the Corston recommendation that there should be rigorous training and ongoing support for all those charged with meeting the complex needs of women. To date, more than 2,000 staff and CJS partners have been trained, including more than 1,000 in the last financial year alone. These programmes cover key gender issues such as self-harm, relationships and abuse;

The Sex Workers in Custody and the Community training helps raise staff awareness of the life experiences of street based sex workers, assist them in responding appropriately to disclosure and helps ensure they are better able to signpost women to the appropriate specialist services; and

Introduction of the Choices, Actions, Relationships and Emotions (CARE) accredited intervention for women in prison with a history of violence and a moderate or high risk of reoffending. These women also present with complex needs including substance misuse, mental health issues, and self-harming and/or suicidal behaviours.

Community-based women’s services are another important part of our approach to women in the criminal justice system. These, mainly voluntary sector led, women’s services aim to provide options for the courts to support community sentences through the provision of needs-led holistic services to tackle the underlying causes of their offending, such as drugs, mental health and their often long histories of abuse. On 24 January, Crispin Blunt announced that NOMS has awarded £3.5 million funding to the vast majority of women’s community services across England for 2012/13 - some 30 services in total.

Given the Government’s strong commitment to localism, you will also not be surprised that Ministers see the future for women’s community services lying at the local level, with responsibility for many decisions transferred to Probation Trusts. Ministers would also rather see the taxpayers investment in this agenda pushed out to the frontline, where is can make a more immediate impact on the Government’s priorities for women, rather than being used to establish new bodies in the centre. Going forward, Ministers will be looking to see more locally devolved commissioning to ensure provision is integrated into local services.

Finally, you were concerned that there are no specific references to women offenders in the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill. This is because the law requires that criminal offences, the maximum penalties and the principles of sentencing should be the same irrespective of the sex of the offender.

I am sorry to have written at such length, but I do hope that I have reassured you that we are fully committed to addressing women’s offending.

Vivien Brandon

1 Kazuri is a social enterprise that places vulnerable women leaving domestic violence, prison, on license in the community or at risk of or already facing homelessness, into sustainable homes in the private rented sector. Kazuri empower women by providing them with: a bespoke package of support called a “route map” which is co-designed with a peer advocate, trained in tenancy support and coaching and mentoring; monthly tenancy health checks,; an introduction to services delivered by partnerships with ethical providers in the private and voluntary sectors for counselling, training, employment, restorative justice and other issues.

2 The Independent, 27th June 2009 http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/epidemic-of-selfharm-sweeps-womens-jails-1721544.html

Prepared 12th July 2013