Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) has been offered as a way in which women in the Criminal Justice System (CJS) “will have increased access to support services”. Prior to the many women who were incarcerated pre-TR and would be released from prison without supervision, will now – regardless of whether they have served one day or 12 months – be required to have some form of supervision. Previously, all people leaving custody serving less than 12 months were released without supervision.
TR in relation to women in the criminal justice system needs to be viewed with caution. It has the potential to be a ticking time bomb regarding women and women’s services within the CJS for several reasons; not least because we know most women are serving sentences of less than 12 months – therefore will now fall into the required supervision category – ergo may now become more likely to be imprisoned as orders may be breached. We know that women’s needs in relation to criminogenic factors are complex, compounded as we have seen by additional demotivating and destabilising factors such as losing their children and homes as a result of ridiculously short sentences.
The inexperienced Community Rehabilitation Centres are not yet geared up to address and support women with complex needs – many of the smaller, experienced resources with proven track records either have not secured funding and are closing, have short term funding and are therefore vulnerable, or are not clear on how they will survive the deferred payments and payment by results systems (this is before consideration of how difficult it will be to measure said results). At least equally as (but arguably more) important than supporting people released from custody is doing all that can be done to prevent people entering custody in the first instance.
A Scottish Model of Excellence
Turning Point Scotland’s Glasgow 218 is a place where “magic happens” (Baldwin 2015). Women’s lives are turned around, women stop offending, and they “get their lives back”. It turns out said magic is not anything illogical, untouchable, imaginary or questionable (as perhaps magic is). 218 is simply a place which has worked successfully for 11 years because it is a well-run, well-thought-out, responsive service that values respect, responsivity, reflection, honesty, and integrity as a service and values every woman who passes through it. From the décor and the quality of furnishings, all physically and subliminally giving the message loud and clear to its women “you are worth this”. Every detail reinforces this message: from the staff to the quality of the food, not to mention the range of services and groups available for the women. Each detail has been carefully thought out to give every woman her best chance of success and to allow them to process positive surroundings and positive reinforcement, while at the same time ensuring running hand in hand is responsibility, accountability and choice.
Judgement has no place at 218 – this is a safe place and part of that safety comes from knowing that whatever choices the women may have made in the past, tomorrow is a new day with the potential for different choices. As one woman said to me “there is always hope here, even if it is a bit at a time’’.
The project can be used as a real alternative to custody and women can be bailed to the centre to one of the 12 residential beds by the courts, referred to the centre as part of a community order and/or attend the centre as someone who has been referred by the CJS or voluntarily. Local justice authorities visit and value the project – indeed the Scottish Minister visited the project, extoled its virtues, recognised the worth of such initiatives and decided to halt the building of a planned super prison for women, wishing to divert the funds and energy into projects such as 218 instead.
There is so much to be learned from a project such as 218, and so much to gain. I asked some of the residents what they gained from this service as opposed to prison. In turn they replied, “hope”, “a future”, “recovery”, “wonderfulness”, and the last woman I asked? Her reply was “it gave me my life”.
In summary, and rather simply, I conclude: alongside addressing factors of inequality and social justice from a wider perspective additional measures need to include fewer custodial disposals and the generation of more resources like Glasgow 218.
Version adapted from original article which appeared in Criminal Law & Justice Weekly, 179:10 Rules of Confinement
This article is part 3 of 3 in our Mothers Confined series, by Lucy Baldwin: Senior Lecturer in Criminology, De Montfort University.
Read part 1: Over the threshold?
Read part 2: Time for action
Author/Editor: Forthcoming book Mothering Justice; Working with Mothers in Criminal and Social Justice Settings . Waterside press October 2015