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28 Apr 2022

Howard League responds to Public Accounts Committee report on improving outcomes for women in the criminal justice system

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the Public Accounts Committee’s report on improving outcomes for women in the criminal justice system, published today (Thursday 28 April).

The committee warns that the Ministry of Justice must change its approach if it is to realise the aims of its female offender strategy, which emphasised the importance of maintaining and expanding community services for women to tackle the causes of crime and so reduce the need for courts and prisons.

In the four years since the strategy was launched, the government has spent only £9.5million on community services for women. Meanwhile, ministers have committed to spend £200million on 500 new prison places – a move criticised by the Howard League when it gave evidence to the committee’s inquiry in February.

The committee’s report comes only three days after a briefing by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System revealed that prisons are unable to meet the health needs of women and in fact make them worse. MPs and peers found alarming evidence of poor living conditions and rising self-harm.

Andrea Coomber, Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “The government made the right move when it launched a strategy to keep women out of prison, but unfortunately the implementation of that strategy leaves a lot to be desired.

“Instead of investing in services that would guide women away from crime, ministers  are wasting millions on expanding a prison system that cannot meet their needs, which only compounds the problem.

“It is time for a joined-up approach. There are numerous strategies across government to tackle issues such as drug abuse, mental illness and violence against women and girls – and a large number of the women targeted by the female offender strategy will also be captured by these.

“The challenge is to bring the different strands together, and for the various departments involved to show leadership, grasp the nettle and deliver on their many promises.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. A transcript of the oral evidence given by the Howard League to the Public Accounts Committee inquiry can be read online.
  3. Further information about the inquiry can be found online.
  4. Earlier this week, the All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System published a briefing revealing that prisons are unable to meet the health needs of women and in fact make them worse. Inquiry into women’s health and well-being in prisons: Briefing one, can be read online.

Contact

Rob Preece
Campaigns and Communications Manager
Mobile: +44 (0)7714 604955
Email: robert.preece@howardleague.org

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