The government’s plans to build 500 new places for women in prison have been widely criticised. It was revealed as the Ministry of Justice announced £2m for 38 organisations that work on steering women away from crime. There are currently 3,100 women in prison, thus an increase of 500 new prisoners represents a 15% rise.
The proposals were trailed as part of the government’s ‘commitment to reduce the number of women in custody and improve conditions for those that are serving time‘. ‘This funding boost will allow frontline services to continue the incredible work they do with some of the most vulnerable women in our society to prevent them being drawn into crime,’ said Lucy Frazer QC MP, minister for prisons and probation. ‘Many female offenders suffer complex issues and have experienced very traumatic lives – and it’s only by addressing this that we will break the costly cycle of reoffending.’
The MoJ painted out that the number of women in custody had fallen by 10% since 2010. ‘However, the recruitment of an extra 20,000 police officers is expected to cause a temporary increase in in the female prison population,’ it added.
Dr Kate Paradine, the chief executive of Women in Prison argued that‘women’s centres were ‘an anchor that stop women being swept up into crime’. ‘While 500 new prison places are being built, women’s centres across the country are facing a funding cliff edge in April,’ she argued. ‘This directly contradicts the Government’s own strategy and flies in the face of all the evidence which shows the need for community support in order to address the root causes of offending.’
Andrew Neilson, the director of campaigns at the Howard Leage for Penal Reform, said that the touted £2m of investment for community services was ‘dwarfed by the money being sunk into 500 new prison places for women, which in a single year alone will cost more than 10 times what is being offered to those helping vulnerable women before they ever reach custody’.
Deborah Coles, Director at INQUEST, tweeted that the MoJ’s decision was ‘deplorable.’ ‘The more places you have, the more courts will fill them,’ she said. ‘Instead of expanding prisons, we need to act on the evidence and redirect resources to specialist women’s and community services and address inequality, health and welfare.’
A deplorable decision. The more places you have, the more courts will fill them. Instead of expanding prisons, we need to act on the evidence and redirect resources to specialist women’s and community services and address inequality, health and welfare. https://t.co/TtLflsFERx
— Deborah Coles (@DebatINQUEST) January 23, 2021