Sentencing in individual cases is a matter for the courts. The Government have, however, developed the women's offending reduction programme, which was launched in 2004 and which focuses on improving community based services and interventions to ensure they are appropriate for women and to support greater use of community sentences for those who do not need to be held in custody. The drugs intervention programme and the Department of Health's women's mental health strategy support this work by ensuring that drug and mental health services in the community are appropriate and effective for women offenders.
We are also investing £9.15 million in two projects to demonstrate how an integrated multi-agency approach in the community can be more effective at tackling the multiple needs of women offenders and avoid the use of custody. Baroness Jean Corston’s review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system is due to report to Ministers in December and may suggest further action that could be taken to prevent women with vulnerabilities ending up in prison.