In 2018, women offenders accounted for less than 5% of the total UK prison population. On average, women commit less violent crimes than men. However, women who do commit crime are more likely to have experienced abuse, violence and mental health issues. In 2017, the rate of self-harm incidents among women in custody was five times higher than that of men. It’s in this context that the government promised to adopt a gender-informed approach to provision for offenders.
In June 2018, the Ministry of Justice launched the Female Offender Strategy, setting out a new programme of work for female offenders. The strategy has three main strands:
- earlier intervention
- an emphasis on community-based solutions
- an aim to make custody as effective and decent as possible
The strategy document acknowledges that “making a meaningful change will be a substantial and ongoing task”. But members of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders, which is responsible for oversight of delivery of the strategy, have complained that it is seriously underfunded and therefore unlikely to achieve its objectives.
The government has published a strategy dedicated to women offenders, so this policy is certainly ‘in progress’. We will update it to ‘done’ when we have evidence that the strategy has been effectively implemented at the national level. Follow this policy for updates.
- Secretary of State launches dedicated strategy to ‘break the cycle’ of female offending – Gov.uk
- Open letter to Justice Secretary on Female Offender Strategy – Agenda, Alliance for Women & Girls at Risk
- A long way from home: Improving London’s response to women in the criminal justice system – London Assembly
- The nature of violent crime in England and Wales: year ending March 2017 – Office for National Statistics
- Criminal justice statistics quarterly – Gov.uk