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25.10.13

MoJ announces reforms for female prisoners

Two women’s prisons are to close, the Government has announced in a package of reforms for female prisoners.

Askham Grange and East Sutton Park will close while Eastwood Park and Foston Hall prisons will be refurbished. Buildings at Drake Hall will also be modified to provide enough capacity.

The mother and baby unit at Holloway prison will close, and demand will be met by HMP Bronzefield.

The plans follow concerns raised by the justice select committee this summer that the Government’s probation reforms “ignored” female prisoners.

Moving female prisoners closer to home would help them to maintain family relationships, improve their job prospects and help them to re-integrate into society, cutting the rate of reoffending.

Lord McNally, the minister for female offenders, announced the reforms.

He said: “When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns. Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.

“And providing at least a year of support in the community – alongside the means to find employment on release – will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law-abiding lives.”

But Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: “Trying to improve women's imprisonment would be a waste when the best way to reduce women's offending is to invest in treatment for addictions, mental healthcare, training for work and safe housing away from domestic violence and abuse.”

And shadow justice secretary Sadiq Khan said: “The public want confidence that the criminal justice system is effectively punishing and reforming all those found guilty of committing crimes.

“But this government must do much more to stop women offending in the first place. With only a small number of scattered women's prisons, the concept of local resettlement is almost meaningless.”

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