The Justice Secretary David Gauke MP has replied to the letter below from members of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders, originally sent following the publication of the Female Offender Strategy.
27th June 2018
Dear Mr Gauke,
We are writing to you as members of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders, following today’s publication of the Female Offender Strategy.
As you know, women in prison face considerable disadvantage, with backgrounds of mental ill health, addiction and experiences of domestic and sexual abuse. Prison can be hugely damaging for these women and their families.
We therefore welcome the strategy’s focus on diverting women from custody and instead supporting them in the community.
Women’s community services have been proven to be effective in both preventing women entering prison and in rehabilitating those who do. Yet in recent years, funding pressures have meant many services have struggled to maintain vital support and some have closed completely.
We had hoped the Female Offender Strategy would be an opportunity to address these issues and to improve outcomes for women, their families and society as a whole.
But, while we welcome the general direction of the strategy and its emphasis on community support, we are concerned that without adequate investment it represents a missed opportunity. The £3 million of new funding allocated is simply not sufficient to achieve its ambitions. We estimate, conservatively, that you have handed back to the Treasury around £50m that was earmarked for new prisons for women – the failure to reinvest any of that money in this strategy is hard to comprehend and has grave consequences for its implementation and for the women it is designed to support.
For the Female Offender Strategy to be effective, modelling suggests that an investment of at least £20m in community services is required. Estimates are that female offenders currently cost the government £1.7bn so investment from across government in preventing offending and reoffending could yield significant savings.
We hope therefore you will reconsider the budget for the Female Offender Strategy and consider how the strategy can most effectively be implemented so that it can truly fulfil its objectives and ensure that thousands of women do not become trapped in cycles of offending and disadvantage.
We would welcome the opportunity to work with you on this and look forward to hearing from you.
Katharine Sacks-Jones – Director, Agenda, the alliance for women and girls at risk
Anne Fox – CEO, Clinks
Lord Bradley – Member of the House of Lords & Author of the Bradley Report
Lady Edwina Grosvenor – Prison philanthropist & Founder, One Small Thing
Dame Vera Baird QC – Supporting Victims and Reducing Harm Lead, Association of Police & Crime Commissioners
Sophie Humphreys – Founder & Chair, Pause
Peter Dawson – Director, Prison Reform Trust
Christina Marriott – Chief Executive, Revolving Doors Agency
Dr Kate Paradine – Chief Executive, Women in Prison
Jocelyn Hillman OBE – Founder & CEO, Working Chance
Read the Guardian article.