By Lyndon Harris
Today, Justice Minister Simon Hughes spoke on BBC Radio 5Live about the often thorny issue of female offenders and the way in which the Criminal Justice System (CJS) treats them. He said, “There are so many women who ought not to be in prison. About half ought not to be there at all…”
The BBC reported:
When asked why female offenders should be treated differently to men Mr Hughes said: “Women are a special case for very good, evidenced reasons. Firstly, many more women who go to prison have themselves been victims. They’ve often been abused or in violent partnerships.
This is an important statement in a number of respects.
Following on from the Halsbury’s Law Exchange Women in Prison event in November, at which Simon Hughes appeared on the discussion panel, it demonstrates that this is now an issue which has come to the fore. For such a statement to feature on national radio and in the national press demonstrates its importance. That importance is now seemingly acknowledged by the Ministry of Justice.
It demonstrates that Simon Hughes is receptive to evidence based policy suggestions. At the November event, we published our discussion paper with evidence that women should be treated differently.
It also suggests that the Ministry of Justice (or at least quarters of it) see this issue as one which may appeal to the public.
Finally, it gives us hope and spurs us on in the next stage of our Women in Prison project. We will be collecting further evidence throughout 2015 and producing a policy paper for publication in early 2016. If you would like to help or submit evidence, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org
For decades women in the CJS have been ignored, treated the same as male offenders and generally been on the receiving end of a derogation of duty by the criminal justice system. It is important that the pace which has gathered behind this issue is not lost.
Our discussion paper can be viewed here.
Interviews with female ex-offenders can be seen here.