West Yorkshire’s PCC statement on the launch of the Government’s female offenders strategy (27 June 2018)

Mark Burns-Williamson, West Yorkshire's Police and Crime Commissioner, said: "I have been calling for a change of direction for some time and therefore welcome a strategy that focusses on community solutions for female offenders, particularly given the research showing how much more effective this is in reducing further crime and offending.

"Short sentences all too often result in a revolving door preventing women and men from engaging in services that would better address the issues leading to offending in the first place.

"I agree with my colleagues at the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners (APCC) that we support the opportunity to implement delivery of real and lasting change to the issue of female offending and to help keep our communities safer as a result.

"The strategy is very much in line with the direction of travel for West Yorkshire. As Criminal Justice and community partners we are working together to ensure a collective response to female offenders that more closely meets the needs of both the women, their families and communities to reduce offending and crime.

"The West Yorkshire Local Criminal Justice Board (LCJB) which I chair have included this as a priority in the soon to be published West Yorkshire Reducing Reoffending Strategy and I have personally visited a number of prisons in West Yorkshire to better understand the scale of the problems.

"In this strategy, we will be focusing some attention on female offenders looking to establish a service to help divert women from custody, ensuring the resources within the Criminal Justice system are focused most appropriately to reduce crime in our communities.

"Many women in prison have treatable dependencies that we know contributes to their offending with high levels of complex drug use and alcohol dependency much higher for women than the male offending population.

"This is set against high levels and experience of domestic abuse, sexual violence and mental health problems.

"Finding alternative solutions for less serious offending is vital for our communities, the women involved and their families particularly to prevent intergenerational crime.

"I look forward to seeing how we can work with our local Criminal Justice partners, the Ministry of Justice and Home Office to help implement our strategies locally and agree that the national strategy needs to be properly funded by the Government to ensure they are serious about this commitment."

Additional notes

The number of women in prison has more than doubled since 1993. There are now nearly 2,300 more women in prison today than there were in 1993 and most women entering prison under sentence have committed a non-violent offence.

Theft offences accounted for nearly half (48%) of all custodial sentences given to women in 2016.

Consequently most women entering prison serve very short sentences. Which has increased over the years. This likely as a result of the decreased use of community sentences which for women has fallen by nearly half in the last decade.

The high reoffending rate - 70% for New Hall women serving less than 12 months - and return to custody in the 'revolving door' means it is difficult for women to consistently engage in services that may help them, either in or out of custody.

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