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Deputy Mayor sets out plan to reduce female offending

PICTURED: Sophie Linden

THE DEPUTY Mayor for Policing and Crime, Sophie Linden, set out a new vision today (Jul 17) for transforming how the criminal justice system works with female offenders in London.

Speaking at the Advance Women’s Centre in north east London, the Deputy Mayor introduced the ambitious Blueprint for Women – a new plan which aims to tackle the root causes of offending, prevent reoffending and ensure women have the support they need after leaving prison.

Women are more likely than men to be sent to prison for a first-time offence and women in prison 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.

The Blueprint aims to ensure women are connected with mental health services, that appropriate safeguarding measures are in place, help women to build supportive relationships and to ensure a smooth transition into safe accommodation when leaving prison.

A key commitment in the Mayor’s Policing and Crime Plan, the Blueprint for Women will provide a more co-ordinated approach, bringing together the police, prisons, local authorities and rehabilitation organisations to better meet the needs of women and girls in the prison system.

The Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime will fund an innovative pilot project to work with women who have committed lower level offences such as theft to divert them from the criminal justice system and on to a more positive path. They will be referred to support services for their individual needs, such as mental health or substance misuse, and offered help finding jobs and accommodation.

Sophie Linden, Deputy Mayor for Policing and Crime, said: “We know that women serving prison sentences need specific support in order to turn their lives around. Women in prison are likely to be victims as well as offenders and their experiences and needs have been overlooked for far too long.

“I am pleased today to set out a new way forward. The Blueprint for Women means we can ensure that women in London’s prison system are able to access support across a range of areas and services. Working together we can tackle the root causes of their problems and drive down reoffending, cut crime and make our communities safer.”

A number of organisations are currently working together to deliver the Blueprint, including the Prison Reform Trust, the Metropolitan Police, NHS England, the National Probation Service, the London Community Rehabilitation Company, London Councils, Lambeth Council, Women in Prison, Advance and Hibiscus.

Jenny Earle, Transforming Lives Programme Manager at the Prison Reform Trust said: “Since the closure of HMP Holloway in 2016 we have been working with MOPAC and other London stakeholders to reduce the number of women unnecessarily imprisoned far from home, separated from their children, often losing their homes and jobs and exacerbating other underlying problems. Many have been victims of worse offences than those for which they are imprisoned, and joined up working is key.”

Niki Scordi, Chief Executive of Advance, added: “We welcome the Mayor of London’s commitment to transform the criminal justice response to women in London. The Blueprint for Women recognises that systemic change requires a coordinated community response by statutory, voluntary and other justice organisations.

“The Blueprint also acknowledges that community-based alternatives to custody, like Advance’s Minerva service and Women Centres, are the appropriate response to women in contact with the criminal justice system, most of whom have committed non-violent offences. It is also what women with lived experiences tell us, that specialist services which put women at the centre, deliver the most positive outcomes for them, their children and communities, towards breaking the cycle of re-offending and re-victimisation.”

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