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All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women in the Penal System

A prisoner and an officer talk in Styal prison for women


The Howard League provides administrative assistance to the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Women in the Penal System.

The APPG works to ensure high quality debate and discussion in Parliament on issues relating to women in the justice system, and continues to push for the full implementation of the Corston Report recommendations. It is co-chaired by Baroness Corston, Jackie Doyle-Price MP and Debbie Abrahams MP.

Minutes of the AGM 2019

Minutes of the inaugural meeting 2020

The Corston Report

In 2007, Baroness Corston published her seminal Review of Women with Particular Vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System, also known as the Corston Report. The report called for a ‘distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach’ for women involved in the justice system.

It concluded that imprisonment was disproportionate and inappropriate for the vast majority of women in prison and that women’s centres and other community services were far more suitable for almost all women in contact with the justice system.

The work of the APPG

Inquiry into the arrests of women

In May 2019 the APPG launched an Inquiry into the arrests of women. The inquiry is aimed at encouraging and enabling police forces to prevent women being drawn into the criminal justice system unnecessarily.

The inquiry has held oral evidence sessions with expert witnesses to investigate examples of good practice in reducing arrests of women. it has published two briefing papers.

The APPG inquiry is complemented by a programme of work by the Howard League to reduce the arrests of women and stem the flow of women into the criminal justice system

Read the APPG briefing on arrests of women.

Read the second APPG briefing on arrests of women.

Inquiry into the imprisonment of women

The APPG is also conducting an Inquiry into the imprisonment of women, continuing the APPG’s 2018 inquiry on this topic.

The 2018 inquiry culminated in the publication of a report which outlined ‘knowledge gaps’ in the sentencing process. Magistrates often lack information about the circumstances of women’s lives and the likely impact of prison, as well as about what specialist provision for women is available in their local area. All the evidence submitted to the inquiry can be viewed here.

With the aim of embedding the report’s findings, the APPG’s current inquiry is focussing on the use of remand as well as the moment of sentence, to ensure that all the professionals involved have the appropriate information and guidance to produce the best outcomes for women.

The inquiry is complemented by the Howard League’s work to improve the outcomes for women at sentence.

On 21 May 2020, in a letter to the Secretary of State for Justice, Robert Buckland, the APPG called on the government to release more women from prison during the coronavirus pandemic. The letter was signed by more than 40 parliamentarians. You can read the letter here and the response from the Secretary of State for Justice here.

Inquiry into the treatment of women in the criminal justice system

The APPG published a report on the impact of Transforming Rehabilitation on women’s centres, following its inquiry into the treatment of women in the criminal justice system. It found that women’s centres were successful in reducing offending yet were under threat following the break up of the probation service under the government’s TR programme.

Minutes from the APPG’s evidence session on Tuesday 24 October 2017 with Sonia Crozier, Executive Director of Probation and Women at HMPPS are available here.

Inquiry into preventing the unnecessary criminalisation of women

In 2015, the APPG published a report on preventing the unnecessary criminalisation of women, following a year long inquiry into the treatment of women at risk.

The Inquiry found that for many women it is their repeated victimisation which has led to involvement in the justice system. Gender-informed policing of women is key to preventing unnecessary criminalisation.

Inquiry into girls in the penal system

The APPG conducted an independent inquiry into girls and the penal system and published two reports. The aims of the inquiry were to achieve real change in the lives of young girls in need and to bring about a reduction in the number of girls who entered the criminal justice system.

The inquiry focused on policy and practice regarding girls and investigated the decisions that route girls away from or into the criminal justice system. It looked at the different approaches to working with girls both nationally and internationally. Following the inquiry, girls are no longer held in prisons and the number of girls entering the penal system has fallen.

Major achievements of the APPG:

  • Contributed to reducing the criminalisation of girls
  • Helped to end the policy of holding girls in prisons
  • Championed women’s centres
  • Influenced government thinking regarding women’s imprisonment ahead of the 2018 Female Offender Strategy
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