Female Offender Strategy: One Year On — [Joan Ryan in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 3:28 pm on 24th July 2019.

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Photo of Joanna Cherry Joanna Cherry Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice and Home Affairs), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Justice), Shadow SNP Spokesperson (Home Affairs) 3:28 pm, 24th July 2019

I have no doubt that my colleagues in the Scottish Government are doing that, and I know that in his former role the Minister visited the prison service in Scotland. We have done some things well in Scotland. I do not say it is perfect or that we have got everything right, but it is internationally recognised that the presumption against short sentences in Scotland is changing patterns of reoffending.

I have dealt briefly with the profile of women offenders, but the predictors of reoffending for women are different. For example, research shows that certain factors are much stronger predictors of reoffending for women than for men, such as dysfunctional family relationships—especially family or marital conflict—and poor parent-child attachment, especially for young people. Poverty, deprivation and debt are also bigger reoffending predictors for women than they are for men.

The Angiolini commission found that to improve outcomes for women offenders it is crucial to understand what works to reduce reoffending. Although at the time, due to methodological constraints and the small numbers of subjects, there were few rigorous outcome evaluations of interventions in Scotland, international evidence showed that a number of factors were critical to reducing reoffending by women. One of those was effective intervention, including the thinking skills that need to be in place to challenge antisocial attitudes among women. Another was empathetic practitioners who develop good relationships with women offenders and provide practical and emotional support. The evidence base also supported holistic, rather than stand-alone interventions, and basic services to address women’s needs while in prison. That is just a taste of the international evidence base. It is not discrimination to treat women offenders differently; it is a recognition of the different factors that contribute to women ending up in prison, and that is my answer to what the hon. Member for Shipley had to say.

I look forward to the position in Scotland developing and improving. It is good to know that the Government for England and Wales and the Scottish Government are on a similar track and recognise the clear evidential basis for a different approach to dealing with women offenders.