Commenting on the strategy, Dame Vera said:
“Female offenders are some of the most vulnerable members of society; they often have complex needs and may live with mental health issues, substance use, domestic abuse, homelessness, poor education and unemployment.
“Therefore, I welcome the strategy’s focus on diverting women from custody and, instead, supporting them in the community – which offers better public protection at a fraction of the cost of prisons.
“Working with women offenders at the earliest stage has been shown to reduce reoffending rates, reduce drug and alcohol use, and improve emotional and mental health. Having access to the right support services enables female offenders to turn their lives around.
“However, for the strategy to achieve its intentions it needs to be properly funded. The Ministry of Justice have handed back £50m to the Treasury that was earmarked for new prisons for women, as this building work is now rightly not happening, the money should be invested in to this strategy – that will show a real commitment from government that it wants this strategy to succeed.
“As APCC Victims Lead, I also want to see:
- a more co-ordinated approach across Government;
- proper leadership;
- a published action plan with key dates for implementation of the various commitments;
- clarity around who should lead the many local initiatives it proposes.”
APCC Deputy Victims Lead, Marc Jones, said:
“It is only by doing all of these things will we reduce the numbers of women prosecuted and going to prison, thereby both saving huge amounts of Government funding on expensive prisons and also tackling the intergenerational impact of mothers being detained.
“Forcing vulnerable women into jail for often low-level offences, which are too often the result of actions by men, has a disproportionate effect on families in the short, medium and long term and can lead to a perpetuation of crime through the generations.
“Supporting them in the community is both a more cost effective and productive approach and I welcome the Government’s drive to address this issue.
“PCCs very much welcome the opportunity to support delivery of real and lasting change to the issue of female offending and to keep our communities safer than ever as a result.”