City Hall launches pilot to tackle reoffending rates
The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime has launched an innovative pilot programme which aims to reduce female reoffending rates through targeted intervention to help them onto a more positive path.
The pilot will work with women who have committed lower-level, non-violent offences to reduce the likelihood of reoffending after their sentence. This means instead of serving a custodial sentence, women and girls will be referred to specialist support services in mental health and substance misuse. This approach is being introduced in order to address the difficulties facing women in the criminal justice system.
A lack of a women’s prison in London means women are taken further away from their families and support networks, which makes the process of rehabilitation more difficult and women entering custody are at high risk of losing their accommodation and having significantly worse employment outcomes than men(1). Research shows that women are more likely than men to be sent to prison for a first-time offence(2) and the short sentences are counter-productive, with women more likely to reoffend following a short-term prison sentence for a low-level offence such theft or criminal damage(3). In addition, women in the criminal justice system are highly likely to have been victims of serious crime themselves - more than half of women in prison report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child and more than half have experienced domestic violence(4).
This new approach – which is being piloted over two years in Camden, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark - is a key part of the Mayor’s plan aimed at tackling the root causes of offending, preventing reoffending and ensuring women have the support they need after leaving prison.
The programme will work with women who have committed lower-level offences, such as theft and shoplifting, and has been designed to target the factors that can influence reoffending rates amongst women, such as mental health, relationships and financial security.
As part of a joined-up approach, the police, prisons, local authorities and rehabilitation organisations will work together to help women build financial stability, find jobs and safe and secure accommodation.
Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “By providing women in the criminal justice system with the support they need to pursue a more positive and productive path, we can tackle rates of reoffending and support some of the most vulnerable women and girls in prison. This pilot builds upon programmes carried out across England which have shown that through targeted support we can reduce the rates of women reoffending after serving their prison sentence.
“To keep our communities safe we must be tough on crime – those who commit crimes can expect to face the full force of the law. We must also be tough on the causes of crime, and this pilot, solely aimed at low-level and non-violent offences, is based on evidence that shows putting women in prison for a low-level offence does more harm than good. That is why we are bringing together the police, prison services and rehabilitation organisations, to help female offenders onto a more positive path, cut crime and reoffending rates and keep our communities safe.”
Niki Scordi, Chief Executive of Advance, said: “Advance welcomes the commitment of the Mayor of London and the Metropolitan Police to transform London’s response to women who have offended, diverting them away from the criminal justice system and reducing re-offending.
“Evidence shows that the offending behaviour of women in contact with the criminal justice system is often linked to abuse and violence they themselves have been victims of. Prosecuting them adversely impacts both them and their children, without addressing their often multiple and complex needs.
“Taking a whole system approach, Advance and its partners will offer the women specialist, dedicated support and interventions in a safe space at our Women’s centres, providing an effective alternative in the community so that they can lead safe, crime-free lives.”
Dr Kate Paradine, CEO of the charity Women in Prison says: "The only way to tackle the crisis in our criminal justice and prison system is by addressing the root causes of crime in our communities.
“Investing in women's centres and diversion services are a vital first step to addressing this and will form essential part of London's 'whole system' approach, avoiding the unnecessary harm caused by separating women from their families.
“Projects like this across the city will help enable London to become a national and international example in how to address the root causes of crime and improve the wellbeing and lives of all Londoners."
Commander Julian Bennett, the Metropolitan Police Service lead for detention and prosecution, said: “The Female Offender Diversion Project pilot is an important part of the Met’s activity to support our key role in preventing crime in London, by tackling the underlying factors that lead to a high proportion of women reoffending following their conviction for low-harm offences.”
Notes to editors
1 Prison Reform Trust (2015) Working it out: Employment for women offenders, London: PRT
2 Ministry of Justice (2018) Offender management statistics quarterly: January to March 2018
3 Guiney, T. (2018) Why Are More Women Being Returned to Prison Than Ever Before? Huffington Post. 13 February. Available from: https://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/why-are-more-women-being-returned-to-prison-than_uk_5a81bca5e4b033149e401d62
4 Ministry of Justice (2012) Prisoners’ childhood and family backgrounds and Provision for Women offenders in the community: Fawcett Society