Senedd told inadequate support leads to women re-offending
Welsh women need more support to stay out of prison, according to a Senedd report.
The Equality and Social Justice Committee is calling for responsibility around women’s involvement in the criminal justice system to be devolved to the Welsh Government.
The Committee found that prison sentences as short as a week are normal, despite offering no opportunity for rehabilitation.
There isn’t a women’s prison in Wales.
Women from south Wales are sent to HMP Eastwood Park in Gloucestershire, whilst women from north Wales are sent to HMP Styal, outside Manchester.
Jenny Rathbone MS, Chair of the Senedd’s Equality and Social Justice Committee, said: “Our inquiry confirms that the criminal justice system fails to meet the needs of Welsh women.
“(There is) widespread agreement that short custodial sentences for non-violent crimes are counter-productive – they increase the likelihood of reoffending.
“We were shocked to learn that short custodial sentences, sometimes as short as a week, continue to persist despite having little to no benefit.
“This is just enough time for a woman to lose her home, her job, and her family; but not enough time for any meaningful intervention which aims at rehabilitation or tackling underlying issues.”
She added that the committee recognises that some women are in prison because of the seriousness of their crimes.
However: “The vast majority are given short custodial sentences for non-violent offences, which are completely counter-productive.
“They are traumatic for the individuals and devastating for their children. They are also eye-wateringly expensive and have very poor outcomes,” said Ms Rathbone.
The Committee’s inquiry considered data compiled by Women in Prison, which shows that 56.1 per cent of women who have served a custodial sentence will reoffend within one year.
This figure rises to 70.7 per cent of women who have been released following a short custodial sentence of less than 12 months.
The inquiry also found that frustration around the limitations of what is within the power of the Welsh Government could be hindering progress.
While prisons, courts and parole are not devolved, the Welsh Government is responsible for services which overlap with the justice system, including substance misuse, physical and mental health, and housing.
The Committee calls for the Welsh Government to seek devolved responsibility for women’s involvement in the criminal justice system.
It says that would allow it to accelerate reducing women’s involvement in the criminal justice system, as well as more effective sentencing and rehabilitation.
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