- local women to be diverted from crime with tailored support
- government invests £10m in first-of-its-kind pilot
Women suffering from issues such as substance abuse and trauma will benefit from a pioneering new center designed to address the root causes of low-level female delinquency.
The 12-bed residential women’s center in Swansea will open in 2024 for around 50 women offenders a year who would otherwise have been sentenced to prison for 12 months or less.
The £10million center is a key part of the government’s plan to minimize the number of women sent to prison in England and Wales.
It is specifically designed to address the fact that many women who commit petty crimes, such as shoplifting and petty drug and alcohol crimes, are motivated by underlying and complex factors. . Statistics show that over 60% of women in custody have reported experiencing domestic violence, up to a third have been victims of sexual assault and 50% have substance abuse needs.
Offenders at the center will receive individual mental health therapy, counseling to deal with trauma from past abuse, and support to overcome addictions. The service will also provide longer-term support to women to help them find employment and maintain family relationships as they transition from the center to life in their communities, in order to prevent recidivism.
The center will be run by the probation service and while there offenders must agree to work with staff and abide by the no alcohol or illegal drug policy.
Minister of Prisons Victoria Atkins said:
We want to reduce the number of women who are sent to prison for short sentences and help them break the cycle of delinquency. To truly achieve this, we need to address the complex factors that often underlie their behavior.
This center is designed to tackle these underlying issues head-on, while allowing women to stay close to their homes and crucial support networks that play a key role in reducing recidivism.
Only offenders from the local community will stay at the center. They will live there for up to 12 weeks under a community sentence, so they can maintain contact with their families and children. Offenders who are not required to stay in the accommodation unit as part of their sentence will also be able to benefit from the community services offered by the centre.
The site will now be subject to planning permission, but once opened the center will operate as a pilot project for five years, backed by at least £10million in government funding.
Danielle John, 40, from South Wales, spent time in jail for offenses of shoplifting to fund drug addiction, after a difficult childhood and domestic abuse in her early adult life. She now works for the St Giles Trust as a mentor to others now in the criminal justice system.
I know firsthand how addiction, domestic abuse, and childhood trauma can lead you down a path of destruction and jail time.
Thanks to the support I got for my mental health and help in learning the skills I needed to believe I had a future, I’ve been sober for four years, going to college and I have a job that excites me.
A women’s residential center will provide women in the justice system with the support they need to tackle trauma head-on and turn their backs on crime for good.
The center is a key part of the Women Offender Strategy, launched in 2018 to divert vulnerable women from crime and reduce recidivism. The purchase of the site in Swansea follows extensive work with organizations that work closely with women in the justice system, including South Wales Police, Women’s Justice Blueprint Wales, Future 4 Consortium, Welsh Women’s Aid and the Revolving Door Agency.
Welsh Minister for Social Justice Jane Hutt said:
The establishment of the first women’s residential center in Wales is a major step forward, providing a more comprehensive approach to providing services to women who find themselves involved in the criminal justice system in Wales.
It will provide women with the support and services they need to lead healthy, crime-free lives, while connecting them to their own community. Ultimately, it shows what we can accomplish when we work together to provide the services people need to change their future.
Emma Wools, Deputy Police and Crime Commissioner for South Wales, said:
In South Wales we have shown that it pays to tackle offending through early intervention and prevention and that for many women it pays to provide help and support to to the circumstances that led to the delinquency.
This residential center in Swansea will allow us to build on some of the very effective joint work we have already launched – such as the Women’s Pathfinder approach – which reduces crime and future harm by understanding their root causes and tackling them together.
Julie James, Senedd member for Swansea West said:
I am extremely pleased that Wales’ first residential center is located in Swansea, providing local women with a safe and secure facility suited to their purpose, enabling them to maintain contact with their families, especially children.
Many women offenders are themselves victims of crime, often having suffered physical or emotional abuse. The ability of a dedicated facility to promote positive well-being and foster long-term outcomes to reduce recidivism is therefore good news.
Notes to Editors:
- The women’s residential center will be accessible to women who already live in the local community, meaning it will not cause an influx of female offenders into the area
- The Women’s Residential Center is not a prison. Within the limits of their sentence, women will be able to go out during the day and contact with families will be encouraged where appropriate.
- Women will be required to stay overnight and the center will be staffed and monitored 24/7 by probation service staff. There will be a strict drug, alcohol and anti-social behavior policy.
- Women at the center will be community-ordered supervised by a probation practitioner, and their sentence plan, which will include a package of tailored structured interventions, will be delivered through commissioned probation and rehabilitation services.
- The center will also aim to reduce the number of women sentenced to prison, as women on probation in the local community can also access services, to help them turn away from crime for good. Part of the center’s offering will be women-only reporting and services under one roof, which have been shown to reduce recidivism.
- The Women’s Residential Center pilot project is a key commitment of the Women Offender Strategy. The Women’s Justice Blueprint in Wales, which is part of this wider strategy, is also supporting the pilot.
- The Future 4 consortium is made up of the following organisations: Safer Wales, Include, G4S and Llamau.
- Danielle John works as a personal wellness coach with St Giles, working with offenders in the CJS.