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Female Offenders: Short Sentences

Volume 737: debated on Tuesday 12 September 2023

17. Whether he has held recent discussions with the Welsh Government on developing community-based alternatives to imprisonment for female offenders serving short sentences. (906345)

Ministers engage regularly with colleagues in the Welsh Government, including discussions on female offenders and alternatives to custody. Both Governments work closely on delivering the “Women’s justice blueprint for Wales” on female offending.

Short sentences for women often do more harm than good, reinforcing trauma and leading to further reoffending. In 2022, two thirds of sentences for immediate custody for women were for less than 12 months. It is anticipated that 1,000 more women will be in prison by 2026. How does the Secretary of State justify the growing female prison population and the use of short sentences, given Wales’s ambition to divert as many women as possible away from prison?

The women’s population in prison has come down, and sentencing is a matter for the judiciary and not something in which the Government intervene. It is important that suitable alternatives to custody are available, and I join the right hon. Lady in paying tribute to the people running women’s centres, for example, which do a fantastic job specifically for women, as well as to the broader set of alternative and community sentence options. It is important that we make sure we continue to work on those, including working together with the Welsh Government.