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Call for Evidence

Women in Prison

As of June 2019, the female prison population was 3,800 making up 5% of the total prison population. The number of females in prison is expected to increase temporarily as a result of the Government’s commitment to 20,000 more police officers. Female offenders are often among the most vulnerable in society and have varied and complex needs.  Many experience mental health problems, substance misuse, homelessness, abuse and trauma. Women are often sentenced to custody for non-violent, low-level but persistent offences, and are often sentenced for short periods. This inquiry seeks to understand the progress made in addressing female offending and reducing the number of women in custody, since Baroness Jean Corston’s 2007 report ‘A review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system’ and the publication of the Government’s “Female Offender Strategy” 11 years later. We also seek to understand how well female offenders’ needs are met in custody.

Please send submissions of no more than 3,000 words through the online portal by 7 June:

Reducing the number of women in custody

1. What progress has been made on commitments to reduce the number of women in custody since the publication of the Female Offender Strategy?

• What more can be done?

2. What has been done to reduce the number of women serving short prison sentences?

• Do community sentences currently offer a credible alternative to custody? (If no, why not?)

• What more could be done?

3. What progress has been made on the development of Residential Women’s Centres?

• Do these offer a suitable alternative to custody?

4. What has been done to ensure that the welfare of dependent children is taken into account when sentencing decisions are made?

Women in Custody

5. Since the publication of the Female Offender Strategy, what work has been done to improve conditions for those in custody?

6. Does the female prison estate take a Whole System Approach (that considers all of the offenders needs)to those in their care?

• What does this look like in practice?

• Are there any barriers in achieving a Whole System Approach to female offending?

7. How are women supported to maintain family ties in prison? What progress has been made on improving family ties since the Farmer Review? What effect has Covid-19 had on maintaining family ties for women in custody?

• What support is available for mothers to maintain contact with dependent children?

8. What factors contribute to the high levels of self-harm in the female estate?

• What is being done to address the high levels of self-harm in the female estate?

• What more could be done?

9. Does the custodial estate offer a trauma-informed environment for females? (a trauma informed environment, being that which is about putting experience, behaviours and needs first, and creating a safer, healing environment that aims to reduce and prevent trauma and retraumatising an individual)

• Could more be done? If so, what?

10. What support is available to ensure that women are successfully resettled into the community upon release and reduce reoffending?

• Are there any barriers to effective resettlement, and reduced reoffending?

11. What support does the female adult estate offer to girls transitioning from the youth custodial estate?

This call for written evidence has now closed.

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