The Corston report, published in March 2007, showed dramatic change was needed in how women were treated in the criminal justice system: outlining the need for a more holistic, women-centred approach. Yet, more than ten years later, little progress has been made – with the government continuing to implement policies and practices that undermine rather than support women’s recovery.
Voluntary organisations from across the women’s sector have instead filled this gap in supporting the women who find themselves ignored and silenced.
The recent report for the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee (PCC) looked at improving how women are treated in the criminal justice system; and the report calls on the Mayor to adopt a set of objectives for London that demonstrate the capital is taking the steps needed to deliver change. In this report, the PCC highlights similar issues to those first raised in the Corston report, and expresses concern that not enough change had been made since 2007.
The PCC highlights that women make up just 15% of the arrests made by the police in London each year, and their crimes are typically low-level, with these women also having often been affected by coercive relationships or abuse. The PCC looked at issues such as the use of prison for low-level offenders, the potential for better use of community sentences and the provision of specialist support services to prevent reoffending.
They acknowledge that the government’s new Female Offender Strategy presents a fresh opportunity for change, and we agree that it is a positive step to finally have the treatment of women in the criminal justice system on the government agenda. But how can we ensure that another decade does not go by without any real changes being made?
We hope ministers and stakeholders will listen more fully to the organisations that specialise in this area, and build upon the recommendations laid out in the PCC report. Ultimately, we hope that the government will give a voice to the women whose lives are presented as bullet points in policy documents.
Through the Women’s Mental Health Network Consultation, Wish is involving women who have experience of the mental health and criminal justice systems, and asking them to identify the top three issues within service provision that need to change. We will then be developing user-led campaigns to address these issues. We are turning up the volume on the voices of the women discussed in this report.
The PCC hopes that: “This time, unlike over a decade ago, calls for change must result in action.”
We will be making sure it does.
For more information about our consultation and the Women’s Mental Health Network, click here.