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Vulnerable women in prison: report

13 March 2007

A report published today on the treatment of women offenders called for a 'radical' approach to the issue.

The report by Baroness Jean Corston emphasises the need to take a new approach to dealing with vulnerable female criminals.

The Home Secretary commissioned the report in 2003, after a number of deaths at Styal prison. 

The report calls on the government to develop a strong, consistent message in support of its policy that prison is not the right place for women offenders who pose no risk to the public.

Key recommendations

The document contains 43 separate recommendations, including:

  • creating a 'champion' for female offenders or those at risk of offending within government
  • developing an inter-departmental ministerial group to oversee women offenders' issues
  • changing the way criminal justice agencies work with women
  • commitment to a 10-year programme to replace women's prisons with small, local custodial units
  • end of routine strip-searching in women's prisons
  • improved sanitation conditions in prisons

Women's needs often overlooked

Baroness Corston said the needs of many women in the criminal justice system are not being sufficiently addressed, and change is needed.

'It has been made clear to me during my review that, as a minority in the criminal justice system, women's needs are invariably overlooked.' she said.

She called for an extension to women's community centres to enable public-sector and volunteer agencies to reach the most socially excluded women. She said, 'I was very impressed with the women's centres I visited during my review, and with their holistic and woman-centred approach to meeting the needs of women.'

Home Office welcomes the report

Welcoming the report, Home Office Minister Baroness Scotland said, 'vulnerable women who are not a danger to society should not be going to prison'.

She said the government would look carefully at the issues raised in the report, and consider its recommendations.

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