Today, we have announced our new approach to managing female offenders through the development of a custodial estate that facilitates closeness to home, improved resettlement opportunities and the maintenance of family links.
In the Government’s response to the Justice Select Committee following their inquiry into female offenders, and in the report following the review of the Women’s Custodial Estate we set out our plans to establish an open unit at HMP Styal and test this approach, set up community employment regimes across the estate to improve more women’s access to jobs for their release, and create strategic hubs in order to improve closeness to home in certain regions.
In addition to this, for the first time, all women will receive support through-the-gate and 12 months supervision on release as part of our Transforming Rehabilitation reforms. NOMS’ Stocktake of Community Services for Female Offenders shows that the spread and availability of community services specifically for women has been increasing. This sets the groundwork for the expansion of community support to women on release from short-sentences in 2014 and beyond.
Our efforts to divert women from custody where it is appropriate to do so also continue. We are introducing legislation through the Offender Rehabilitation Bill to ensure that the Secretary of State enters into contracts with probation providers that identify and consider the particular needs of female offenders. To this end, we are also issuing guidance so that probation providers fully understand the particular needs of female offenders and how to meet those needs.
We are working in areas of high and low custody rates to examine what factors cause sentencers to give fewer custodial sentences and will be trialling a new approach to see if it has an impact on prison receptions.
Across Government we also continue to the needs of women who may be at risk of offending as part of the work of the Advisory Board. The Social Justice Cabinet Committee is driving forward change for those who are vulnerable and marginalised in society and addressing the needs of women at risk of offending falls within its remit.