Early on in 2019, I became the Spokesperson for Justice and was determined to learn more about rehabilitation and what leads people to commit crime.
After spending months asking ministerial questions, sitting in meetings with the Justice department, and running campaigns around key justice areas, I am shocked by the crisis I can see unfolding within our prisons. Female offenders are some of the most vulnerable victims of this crisis.
Our criminal justice system is failing the women who end up there.
Only five percent of inmates are female but they account for almost half of the instances of self-harm in prisons across this country. Between a lack of mental health services and a lack of preparation for release, the Tory government has failed to protect the women who end up in Prison.
Worse, women are normally sent to prison for under 12 months. These short sentences do not allow for rehabilitation but are just enough time for women to lose their home, children, and jobs.
Out of the female offenders who are given a prison sentence of three months or less, approximately seventy percent of them find themselves in prison again within two years. However research shows that of those who are lucky enough to be given community service, and receive help for the underlying causes of their problems, only twenty seven percent are reconvicted.
Why are we sending women to prison if it isn’t helping and they are not deemed to be of any danger to society?
Women need to be rehabilitated in community provision sites not in prisons. The Tories even acknowledged this in their ‘Female Offender Strategy’, brought out last year.
Although saying all the right things the ‘Female Offender Strategy’ has failed to have the impact it promised. One year on it has become clear that the strategy was dreadfully underfunded. The entire plan only set aside a fraction of the cost needed to deal with this crisis, which reveals to the Tories’ low commitment to this issue.
The Tories were keen to invest in the system when it involved earmarking £50 million to build five new community prisons. However, when they scrapped that idea and shifted to the Female Offender Strategy, they cut 90% of the funding.
Actions speak louder than words. And action, which would help vulnerable women across our criminal justice system, requires funding.
Without a properly funded “Female Offenders Strategy” we can only dream about disrupting the cycle of incarceration which many women have found themselves in. The Liberal Democrats demand better and are fighting to put rehabilitation at the center of our justice system.