The MA welcomes the publication of a Female Offender Strategy by the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) in June 2018, and the recognition of the impact that criminal sanctions can have on families – especially children – as well as offenders. Female offenders can be among the most vulnerable, in both the prevalence and complexity of their needs.
Our position statement makes the following points:
- We agree that short custodial sentences do not deliver the best results for female offenders, and that many female offenders could be more successfully supported in the community, where reoffending outcomes are better.
- We note that early intervention with female offenders need not necessarily take the form of diversion from the criminal justice system, and that support as part of a criminal justice response can be the most appropriate form of support.
- We particularly welcome the proposals to facilitate early intervention by investing in women's centres, requiring health and education agencies to identify and engage women who are at-risk, and funding community provision and domestic abuse services for women.
- We agree that for out of court disposals to provide effective early intervention, they must involve conditional cautioning, with appropriate supervision and support in place. We maintain that courts are the proper place for anything other than minor, low level offences to be dealt with.
- We welcome proposals to improve the content of pre-sentence reports.
- We reiterate that the minimum requirement for community rehabilitation company contracts to be specified as women-only should be for at least a half day and (where practical) a whole day.
- We agree that the strategic priorities must be underpinned by a clear framework to deliver real progress, and emphasise the importance of locally available services for female offenders.
- We welcome Lord Farmer's further work on the importance of family ties in improving outcomes for offenders, and the commitment to develop a National Concordat on Female Offenders.
- We welcome the MOJ commitment to publish an annual update on progress, and the proposal to increase the effectiveness of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders.