1. ITV Report

Women prisoners to serve sentences 'closer to families'

Styal prison Photo: PA

Women inmates will serve their sentences closer to home and will be offered skills to help find work upon their release under new reforms revealed today.

Under the proposals, low risk offenders will be encouraged to undertake practical training so they can seek employment following their jail term.

The reforms, planned for next year, unveiled by Justice minister Lord McNally, who is also the minister for female offenders, also calls for all women's prisons to become resettlement prisons so that women are close to home and are re-integrated into society.

Options for opening a commercial-run business at Styal are also being considered as a means of providing training and employment for offenders at the prison. This follows the success of other projects, including those at HMP High Down and HMP Cardiff.

Justice Minister Lord McNally said:

"I want to see women leaving HMP Styal find employment on release and reintegrate back into their communities. These changes are about making sure women who are sent to prison never come back, and are given a real chance to lead productive, law abiding lives.

"Our reforms will keep adult female prisoners across the estate closer to home so they can maintain links with family, give them the practical skills to find a job on release and provide tailored support and supervision from the moment they arrive in prison, carrying on in the community for at least another year.

“All this will help them finally break the depressing cycle of reoffending too many find themselves trapped in."

The new approach includes:

  • keeping women to be closer to home;
  • setting up new community employment regimes aimed at getting the majority of female prisoners into work on release;
  • improving prison capacity near some urban areas;
  • establishing and testing an open prison unit at HMP Styal;
  • assigning responsibility for the delivery of through-the-gate support in all women’s prisons to the new Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRC).

Several reports to be published later today, including The Government's response to the Justice Select Committee report on Women Offenders: After the Corston Report and the NOMS Women's Custodial Estate Review, are set to help feed in to the new approach towards tackling female offending.

Many women who go on to commit crimes are also domestic and sexual violence victims, with 53% reporting childhood abuse, according to government figures.