Female Prisoners Will be Given Sentences Closer to Home
There are currently around 4,000 women in prison in England and Wales, and many of them are too far from home to receive family visits. This means that children are separated from their mothers for extended lengths of time. Although many people will consider the women to be at fault for breaking up their families, the Ministry of Justice wants to make it as easy as possible for families to be together.
A scheme is being introduced which will allow female prisoners to be transferred to the prison closest to their home. Out of the 13 women’s prisons in England and Wales, 12 will be turned into resettlement prisons, bringing the offenders closer to their families. Those prisoners who are deemed to be “lower risk” will be able to receive employment opportunities and training as well, making it easier for them to find a job when they are released.
“When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns,” said Justice Minister Lord McNally. He feels that keeping female prisoners close to their family home and children would play a big role in helping them get out of the habit of repeat offending.
As part of more Transforming Rehabilitation changes, Lord McNally said that female offenders need to be given at least 12 months support in the community when they are released, as well as the means to find work.
The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) also announced plans to trial HMP Styal in Cheshire as an “open unit”. HMP Styal is a jail for women and young offenders, and was chosen because it is already making a difference with providing women there with training and employment prospects.
HMP Styal is even being considered for a venture that has already proven successful in a couple of men’s prisons. This involves opening a restaurant in the jail that is run by the prisoners and is open to the public.
Although many people are backing the new plans, there are some who think more could be done for the other issues that women can face in prison. Rachel Halford is director of the support group Women in Prison, and said: “If everything works that is being promised, of course this would be fantastic.” However, she thinks the government should be focusing on support for mental health, domestic violence, and education, before anything else.
The MoJ is already hoping to tackle some of these issues by creating four mental health treatment services with the NHS. The MoJ is also going to introduce specialist services to help female prisoners who are expecting to be deported at HMP Peterborough.
Since 2010, the number of women in prison has dropped by 10%. With the introduction of the resettlement prison programme, hopefully it will drop even more, and women will be able to spend their time with their loved ones, and not behind bars. And then similar reforms can be made to the way that men’s prisons are run, as well.