There are currently over 4,000 women in prison in England and Wales. Most women entering prison serve very short sentences. Society could achieve better outcomes and reduce the number of victims of crime, if we invested in women’s centres, rather than sending non-violent women to prison.
For many women, prison is not the best way to break the cycle of reoffending, especially for those who are themselves the victims of domestic violence. Prison should always be a last resort. Women are currently being let down both before and after release from prison.
At the 2017 General Election, I stood on a manifesto which pledged personal rehabilitation plans for all prisoners and a review of the provision of mental health services in prisons.
There needs to be a distinct approach to the specific needs of female offenders. The government has promised to produce a strategy that will improve outcomes for women in the community and custody. The new strategy should focus on providing intervention and support in the community, rather than custodial sentences, to help women turn their lives around. The government should also look seriously at whether prison is the right place for some women. The government needs to carefully consider the proposals that have been put forward by organisations such as Women in Prison when formulating its strategy.
I await its proposals with keen interest.