There are currently 3,886 women in prison in England and Wales. In 2016, one in four women served ultra short sentences of less than a single month. Yet we know short custodial sentences do little to reduce reoffending, and can have grave consequences for the offenders themselves. Women in the criminal justice system are disproportionately affected by mental health issues, substance abuse, and domestic violence. They are often victims as well as offenders.
There is a clear need for a more holistic, data-driven approach which focuses on the needs and characterics of the offender herself – rather than simply the offence committed.
Women offenders have been regular subjects for policy research since the Corston report upended conventional wisdom in Westminster in 2007. But over a decade on, outcomes for women offenders remain broadly unchanged and the issue is clearly a low priority for the government.
Crest’s project will explore whether alternative approaches to women offenders might offer a way out of the morass. Building upon our landmark Justice Devolution report released earlier this year, we believe devolution makes it possible to adopt a tailored approach to women offenders and find solutions that incorporate the broader community. Crucially, we believe this could cut through the policy deadlock of recent times to effect meaningful, enduring change.
Thanks to support from the Hadley Trust, Crest will work with police force areas to develop practical devolution strategies for low-to-mid level women offenders. Local leaders – notably PCCs and elected mayors – are the ones with access to the levers to effect change, the understanding of particular local factors, and democratic accountability. We believe they are in the best position to develop practical, deliverable solutions that account for local dynamics and the complex needs of offenders.
What are we doing?
This project will explore whether the current inertia on women offenders can be transcended through devolution, practical change, and looking for practical, collaborative solutions beyond the justice system.
We will look at how the system is working for vulnerable women, and where the system is coming up short. Specifically we will:
- Identify key drivers of low-to-mid level female offending
- Evaluate what works at reducing female (re)offending, and for whom
- Deliver a costed analysis of the current national model and alternative approaches
- Develop practical strategies based on an integrated ‘whole systems approach’ that includes both criminal justice agencies and services that sit outside, notably local authorities.
Watch out for updates on our work.
Devolution offers the potential to radically reduce female offending by allowing authorities to focus on the offender rather than the offence. The direct and indirect savings offered by a devolved approach will allow policing budgets to be redirected towards other essential security demands, making all of us safer.
We want to hear your ideas. Share your views by contacting a member of the project team, or leaving a comment on the Crest blog.
Devolution is the new black
The Hadley Trust’s aims to creating opportunities for people who are disadvantaged as a result of environmental, educational or economic circumstances, or physical or other handicap, to improve their situation, either by direct financial assistance, involvement in project and support work or research into the causes of, and means to alleviate, hardship.
Crest are an independent criminal justice and policing-focused consultancy. Crest have worked for more than half of British police forces, as well as the Home Office and Ministry of Justice, to analyse, develop and communicate the strategies and insights needed to help build safer communities.
Harvey Redgrave is Managing Director at Crest Advisory. Previously, Harvey worked as a senior policy advisor at the Labour Party and was a deputy director at the Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit.
Sophie Du Mont
Strategy & Insight Manager
As a former policy researcher for a non-profit organisation dedicated to improving transparency in the Colombian oil industry, Sophie is used to analysing complex issues. At Crest, Sophie analyses and evaluates statistics and existing policies affecting the criminal justice system. She uses qualitative and quantitative research to test theories and understand trends.
Head of Communication and Campaigns
Jo Coles is a Head of Communication and Campaigns at Crest. Jo brings expertise in the political and voluntary sector delivering politically-sensitive campaigns and communications. She gave strategic communications advice to the Independent Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse between October 2015 and May 2016.
Policy & Reseach Analyst
Manon Roberts is a policy and research analyst, applying a critical eye to qualitative and quantitative research relating to the criminal justice system. She enjoys evaluating data and policies with the aim of coming up with achievable, evidence-based ideas of how the system can be improved.
Find out more about