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Revolving Doors Agency’s comment on the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s female offender strategy today (27 June 2018).

Short sentences for women recognised as short sighted

Following a high profile campaign by Revolving Doors Agency and partner campaigners [1] the Government has placed reducing the use of short custodial sentences at the heart of its new Strategy on Female Offenders.

The leap forward in the campaign comes after the charity revealed that the public back a new approach; 3 out of 4 members of the public think people with drug or alcohol addictions belong in treatment programmes instead of custody [2]. Yet we know that 70% of women require clinical detox on arrival at prison [3].

Revolving Doors put to Government persuasive evidence that short custodial sentences are ineffective, short-sighted and destructive. This evidence is even more compelling for women – the vast majority of whom are sent to prison for short periods of time for non-violent offences – and who reoffend at a rate of 71% following a short time in custody.

The charity therefore welcomes the Government’s commitment to look at what more they can do to emphasise that short custodial sentences should be viewed as a last resort and will continue to press for a new presumption in law against short sentences of less than 6 months. A new legal presumption commands the support of MPs, peers and Police and Crime Commissioners from across political parties, as well as forming an explicit recommendation of the Justice Select Committee’s in its latest report.

The day before the female offender strategy was published, Justice Minister, Rory Stewart MP, also outlined that he would like to “significantly reduce, if not eliminate” short prison sentences for men and women, highlighting their dismal record at reducing reoffending. He went on to argue that if we adopt this new approach, championed by Revolving Doors and other campaigning groups “victim will be better off, the offender will be better off, society will be better”.

Revolving Doors joins partners from across women’s sector, with whom we work closely, in their calls for more funding to turn this welcome ambition into reality.

 

 

We know that short prison sentences are a dead end for women. It is highly welcome that the Government is showing ambition to significantly reduce their use. Short-sighted short prison sentences disrupt family ties, housing, treatment and have huge destructive impact on children, yet they cannot provide any meaningful rehabilitation. Next step is a presumption against their use to begin to break the cycle of crisis and crime.

Christina Marriott, Chief Executive of Revolving Doors Agency

Notes to the editor

1.    http://www.revolving-doors.org.uk/blog/short-sentences-are-shortsighted

2.    Populus poll of 944 adults in England and Wales commissioned by Revolving Doors Agency. Fieldwork undertaken 12th-13th February 2018

3.    Home Office (2007) The Corston Report London: Home Office