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Women offenders and custody

SASW supported the campaign which opposed the building of a major new prison for women offenders in Inverclyde, and we were pleased to note its success. We are not suggesting that custodial options may not be necessary for some women, and/or the protection of society, but wanted to have an informed debate about women offenders, also in the light of the Dame Elish Angiolini’s report on the Commission on Women Offenders published on 17 April 2012. HMP Cornton Vale is tired and continuously over crowded, and the few other options are also not as fit for purpose as we would want them to be. There is no doubt that there is a significant impact on family life if a relative spends a long time on remand, and/or receives a custodial option sentence, (whether this is a male or female relative), and that impact can last for a great many years after the sentence is served. We have also frequently, with many others, reflected on the lessons learned after people are released. Few report the time in custody has been a positive wake up call, many go on to re-offend, as options are limited on release. Now that the Government has made a decision not to proceed with the development of the national women’s prison at Inverclyde, there is to be a radical rethink of how we develop services for female offenders. There is now to be a short consultation with stakeholders, taking place across the 8 CJA’s (Criminal Justice Authority) in March. SASW will input to one of the events, but we also urge social workers, where possible, to try and attend. Please contact t.parkinson@basw.co.uk for more detail.