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Corston Report

Volume 497: debated on Thursday 22 October 2009

2. What recent discussions she has had with the Secretary of State for Justice on steps to implement the recommendations made in the Corston report relating to women in prison addicted to drugs. (294823)

In my role at the Ministry of Justice as Minister for Prisons and champion for women in the criminal justice system, I discuss this matter regularly with the Secretary of State for Justice. As of February, there are no longer any women prisoners being routinely strip-searched in women’s prisons in England, and we are investing £15.6 million of new money over this two-year period in existing third sector organisations to divert vulnerable women offenders from custody.

I am grateful for the Minister’s response. On a visit to HMP Send, a women’s prison, I spoke to women on the rehabilitation of offenders trust who were helping women to rid themselves of the scourge of drugs. The particular problem raised by the Corston report was that dangerous moment when women are released from prison, particularly when child care problems are involved. What further discussions has my hon. Friend had on protecting women at that difficult time?

I am glad that my hon. Friend has seen the excellent programme at HMP Send, which I have also had the benefit of visiting. It is doing sterling work. Much of the £15.6 million of extra resources to which I have just referred is going to one-stop shops and women’s organisations in the community that have an express purpose and ability to offer personal support to those coming out of prison, and to solve problems with housing and with getting children back to women coming out of prison to prevent them from reoffending. I believe that that will be very effective.

Will the Minister give me an update on the drug problem in Styal women’s prison, which is close to my constituency? There have been a lot of problems there in the past. Can she report on the current situation?

All our prisons have certain difficulties with drug-addicted prisoners, whether they are women’s prisons or other prisons. I can tell the hon. Gentleman that a record investment is going into drug rehabilitation and support in our prisons—including HMP Styal, to which he referred—with 15 times more money being spent now than in 1997 on drug rehabilitation, and a record number of people engaging with it. That has to be hopeful for the future.