To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, what recent discussions his Department has had with women's (a) organisations and (b) centres on the support that they can provide to women released from custody under the End of Custody Temporary Release Scheme.
The early release schemes were introduced as one element of a package of measures to create headroom to help contain the spread of coronavirus in prisons, alongside the creation of temporary accommodation and expediting of remand cases. This has enabled us to compartmentalise prisons to isolate the sick, shield the vulnerable and quarantine new arrivals. These measures have helped to contain the spread of the virus and limit deaths significantly, compared to initial estimates.
Measures were taken in April to release a number of pregnant women in custody and mothers and babies living in prison Mother and Baby Units (MBUs). These measures were discussed with those representing women’s organisations, including the regional networks co-ordinated by Clinks, the umbrella body for organisations working with offenders, Women in Prison, Birth Companions and others.
An extra-ordinary meeting of the Advisory Board for Female Offenders, which includes representation from women’s organisations and other external stakeholders, was held on 27 April 2020, and chaired by the Minister of State for Prisons and Probation.
HM Prison and Probation Service (HMPPS) Women’s Team has a single point of contact within Clinks for work relating to women and with whom they have established and maintained regular contact. This has enabled local and regional contacts with third sector providers to be established at pace and their details shared with practitioners in custody and the community to ensure women have access to appropriate support and assistance upon their release.