Giving women support over punishment.
‘A vicious cycle of victimisation and criminal activity develops, creating a toxic lifestyle that is extremely difficult to escape.’ This comment from the 2007 Corston review of vulnerable women in the criminal justice system demonstrates why prison is not always the answer and can often compound problems to become a lifetime’s involvement with incarceration, with all the heartbreak and family break-up that entails.
In our cover story this issue, Katy Swaine Williams and colleagues share knowledge from the Prison Reform Trust, making a very powerful case for community solutions over short prison sentences – an argument backed by research demonstrating cuts in reoffending rates. They acknowledge that there is still much more to be learned about how such women can be supported to access treatment in the community – underlining the value of debate at the recent Kaleidoscope Project conference in Cardiff (see report on page 10). Bringing together speakers from the police, social research, healthcare and charities gave a powerful perspective on the many pressures that drive women into destructive behaviours – and highlighted the desperate need for support in breaking cycles of self-destructive behaviour. It makes obvious sense of the Prison Reform Trust’s call for a statutory requirement for ‘appropriate, gender-specific provision’, in every area of the country.