Welcome to the online research submission page on female offenders and the Criminal Justice System. This is the second stage of a project to examine appropriate policy responses to the treatment of women who offend.
The needs of female prisoners are extremely complex, and require input from multiple bases to combat the problems they face.
We invite you to submit relevant material with a view to a full policy paper on a UK-wide strategy for women offenders. This can include (but is not limited to) the following:
- Gender equality issues
- Prison estate
- Penal policy
- Sentencing and sentencing guidelines
- Community guidelines
- Restorative justice
- International comparative approaches
In order to produce a sound policy document on the topic of women offenders, we need to fully investigate the risks and needs of women and girls in order to make recommendations for services that will deliver the outcomes required to reduce reoffending and promote desistance from crime.
Women prisoners must be held in conditions and within regimes that meet their gender-specific needs and facilitate their successful resettlement. However, decades of research has shown that many women prisoners are victims of violence, abuse and addiction, and that they (and their families) suffer inordinately in the current penal system.
Women in custody are more likely to have mental health issues or drug dependency problems than men and are five times more likely to have a mental health problem than other women in the general population. Prison is often more harmful for them as women have higher rates of self-harm – they account for 43% of all incidents of self-harm despite representing just 5% of the total prison population.
In addition, women are often inadequately prepared for their release from prison: having a stable home, secure employment and proper provision for childcare upon release from prison are some of the most important factors in the successful rehabilitation and resettlement of women. Prisoners who have problems with both employment and accommodation on release have a reoffending rate of 64% during the year after custody, compared to 43% for those with no such problems. Just 11% of women received help with housing matters while in prison. Less than a quarter of women with a prior skill had a chance to put their skills into practice through prison work.
Is the answer to avoid sending women to prison altogether? Or is it to provide support services at an early stage as a form of crime prevention? To what extent can policy dedicated to combatting domestic violence reduce offending by women and/or reduce the number of women offenders who are victims of abuse? How can communities feel safe if we are to reduce the number of offenders sent to prison and what might be the effective alternatives for the courts when it comes to sentencing women?
We hope, with your help, to answer all these questions and more.
To submit your research and other relevant documentation, please fill in the box on the right hand side of this page (or below if viewing on a mobile device), and we’ll be in touch.