The right to family life: children whose mothers are in prison Contents

2Policy context

The Farmer Review and Farmer Review for Women

18.The Farmer Review was published in August 2017. It focused on men in custodial settings and made recommendations about how prisoners’ family ties could be strengthened. It urged that there should be a clear and simple structure for accountability as regards prisoners’ contact and relationships with their family. This should include ensuring that the importance of family ties was a ‘golden thread’ running through the new prison policy frameworks.20 In January 2019, as part of its response to the Farmer Review the Ministry of Justice introduced the new Strengthening Prisoner’s Family Ties Policy Framework which is intended to support prison governors to strengthen relationships between prisoners and their families.21

19.In 2018 Lord Farmer was asked to carry out a further piece of work to look specifically at the needs of female offenders in prison and in the community. The report of the Farmer Review for Women was published in June 2019 and identifies and makes specific recommendations about how to strengthen female prisoner’s family ties, especially with their children.22 We were grateful to Dr Samantha Callan, adviser to Lord Farmer, who gave evidence to us about this work and welcome the recommendations in his review, particularly the recommendation of a Personal Circumstances File. Our report does not therefore seek to contradict but rather to augment the Famer Review for Women, focusing as our report does, particularly on the interests of prisoners’ children.

The Female Offender Strategy

20.The Female Offender Strategy was published by the Ministry of Justice in June 2018.23 It sets out three priorities: earlier intervention; an emphasis on community-based solutions; and better custody for those women who do have to be in prison. It specifically commits to reducing the number of women serving short custodial sentences and recognises the major part that domestic abuse can play in female offending.

21.The strategy makes several commitments to address issues relating to mothers who go to prison. These include:

Women’s Policy Framework

22.In December 2018 Her Majesty’s Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) published a new Women’s Policy Framework for prison and probation staff who work with women offenders. This replaces Prison Service Order (PSO) 4800 on Women Prisoners. It provides guidance on how they can deliver gender informed services to female offenders in a way that captures and reflects best practice.25


21 Ministry of Justice Strengthening Prisoners Family Ties Policy Framework, January 2019

23 Ministry of Justice, Female Offender Strategy, Cm 9642, June 2018

24 These training materials were produced by Dr Shona Minson

25 Ministry of Justice & HM Prison and Probation Service, Women’s Policy Framework, 21 December 2018




Published: 9 September 2019