Skip to main content

Female Prisoners

Volume 407: debated on Tuesday 24 June 2003

The text on this page has been created from Hansard archive content, it may contain typographical errors.

To ask the Secretary of State for the Home Department (1) what plans he has to reduce the number of women in prison for non-violent offences; [119980](2) what plans he has to reduce re-offending among women released from prison; [119981](3) whether it is his policy to reduce the female prison population; [119982](4) what assessment has been made of the scope for the awarding of non-custodial sentences for women who are mothers. [120019]

The significant increase in the female prison population, and the wider consequences of this in terms of disruption to their families, particularly their children, underlines the importance of responding specifically to the particular needs and characteristics of women offenders.We are taking forward the Women's Offending Reduction Programme over the next three years in order to promote a more distinct response to the range of factors that have an impact on why women offend, and encourages joint working between departments, agencies and other relevant organisations. A primary focus will be on improving community based interventions that are better tailored to the needs of women, and encouraging greater use of community disposals to ensure that custody is only used for women offenders who really need to be there.It is, of course, for the courts to decide what sentence is appropriate in individual cases, but we intend to support and encourage greater use of community sentences for women by making sure that there is a comprehensive package of community interventions and services to meet their particular needs, including child care facilities, safe housing, drug treatment or mental health services. We will continue to ensure that the courts are made fully aware of the community options that are available.We are also introducing new sentencing powers in the Criminal Justice Bill that will allow offenders on short custodial sentences to focus their rehabilitative work in the community, enabling them to maintain family ties and employment. The Criminal Justice Bill will introduce 'Custody minus', under which offenders will have a custodial sentence of under 12 months suspended providing they follow set requirements in the community, breach of which would return them to prison.There is a new sentence of intermittent custody, under which offenders can spend part of the week in custody and part 'on licence' in the community. One of the pilots for this sentence will be at a women's prison, Her Majesty's Prison Morton Hall. Intermittent Custody will provide an alternative to full-time custody for suitable offenders and will enable them to serve their sentence in a way which dovetails more closely with their personal circumstances.For women who do need to be held in custody, resettlement is a vital element of the Women's Offending Reduction Programme. More effective re-integration into the community for women prisoners on release should have a positive impact on re-offending rates. The implementation of the Women's Estate resettlement strategy will ensure that women are kept as close to home as possible, that good family ties are maintained to minimise the impact on children separated from their mothers, and necessary local community links are made to meet the range of women's resettlement needs.