The Ministry of Justice has this morning set out a commitment to divert the most vulnerable women in the criminal justice system away from custody through the provision of tailored support.
This announcement comes just a week after the Justice Select Committee published their findings into Transforming Rehabilitation, the Government’s recent attempt to overhaul the probation service.
Among their conclusions was the suggestion that the Government introduce a presumption against the use of short custodial sentences across England and Wales.
Bishop Richard Moth, the lead Bishop for prisons, has said in response to these developments:
“I wish to commend the Ministry of Justice for this move towards more effective rehabilitation for women. Evidence shows that short custodial sentences are detrimental to women and their families, and a greater focus on innovative community provision is a very welcome commitment.
“The Justice Committee’s recent call for a presumption against short custodial sentences would apply to both men and women. Despite the evidence that community sentences are more effective at reducing reoffending than time in prison, their use has declined steadily over the last decade.
“The Scottish Government have already introduced a presumption against custodial sentences under three months, and will shortly be extending this to twelve months. It is time for our Government to examine this approach in greater detail and to consider whether there are lessons that could be applied in England and Wales.
“Reducing the use of short term custodial sentences across the board would give offenders a better chance of rehabilitation, protect vulnerable individuals from exposure to potentially harmful environments, and reduce unnecessary pressure on an already overstrained prison service.”