A new project rehabilitating women offenders in the community rather than send them to prison is underway in Liverpool.


The Liverpool Women’s Turnaround Project, based at the Community Justice Centre in Kirkdale, offers women sent to the project services to help them with drug or alcohol abuse and employment.


The main aim is to prevent the breakdown of families after a woman is sent to jail. Social care charity PSS found that 66% of women sent to prison have children and 95% of those children do not stay in the family home once their mother is given a custodial sentence.


Authorities believe that because 70% of women inmates are serving a 12-month sentence or less, community-based support will deter re-offending.


Anne Pakula, of the Merseyside Probation Trust, said: “The small number of women’s prisons means that many women serve their sentence a long way from their homes, making family contact difficult.


"This service provides a real alternative for sentencers who want assurance that women will complete their court orders and receive the help and support necessary to turn their lives around."


The nearest women’s prison to Liverpool is in Styal, Cheshire, which was slammed in 2009 for a spate of suicides and lack of staff trained to offer support to vulnerable women.


Campaigners picketed the prison in a bid to improve conditions there after six women committed suicide between 2002 and 2003.


A report compiled by the National Offender Management Programme - released in February 2009 - found the prison was unable to meet the needs of an “extremely high” number of the 460 inmates dealing with issues which made them vulnerable, such as mental illness and drug addiction.


In 2004, the Howard League for Penal Reform published figures criticising the prison service for its suicide record for women. Out of 94 suicides, 14 were women that year, an increase of 13 deaths in two years.


By 2008, suicides among the inmate population had fallen to 61 and just one was a woman, but that figure increased to three in 2009.

Women offenders get alternative to jail

By Chris Bradley, Website Editor

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