Women in the penal system

18 January 2011

Baroness Corston reviews progress on work with women in the penal system

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System (APPG), chaired by Baroness Corston, has today (Tuesday 18 January) produced a second report on women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system, which reveals bipartisan support for closure of women's prisons and calls funding cuts a 'challenge'.

The report reveals that while many of Baroness Corston's original recommendations have been implemented, there are a number of outstanding concerns. The first Corston report's most significant recommendation to shut down women's prisons and replace them with a limited number of small, multi-functional custodial centres, is yet to be resolved. The APPG is also concerned that there are still too many women in prison for non-violent offences, and too many women being remanded into custody.

The previous government committed 15.6m to invest in the provision of additional services for women at risk of offending. The money was aimed at creating centres providing "one-stop-shop" support services and developing bail support to meet the needs of women. These centres have no dedicated funding past March 2011 and the APPG recommends that the progress they have achieved is sustained.

Baroness Corston said, "There have been many considerable achievements that improve the penal system for women, such as abolishing mandatory strip searching, as well as setting up very successful centres that divert women from custody.

"While a great deal has been achieved, there is more to be done and the coalition government has a responsibility to continue to support women in the penal system. If we are to rely on the one-stop-shop women's centres to play a key role in the diversion of women from custody and in giving women alternatives to reoffending, then these centres will need funding to continue".

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform that provides the secretariat to the APPG, said: "The recent green paper is a step in the right direction and the government has a real opportunity to secure future success for women to help keep women out of trouble and out of the penal system.  We know that diverting women from custody reduces reoffending rates in a way that prison can't, making society safer for everyone. Some of these successful achievements should be replicated for men."

Baroness Corston highlights the positive work done by the Together Women project centres providing support to vulnerable women to tackle multiple and complex issues which trigger offending.  Since April this year Together Women projects have already supported 806 women in Yorkshire and Humberside and 83 percent of those women have achieved positive outcomes. The re-offending rate of women using Together Women support is just 7 per cent compared to a national average of 36 per cent.


The report concludes by saying that the "scale of the problem we face remains significant" pointing out that women still account for 52 per cent of self-harm incidents in prison despite constituting only 5 per cent of the prison population.

Further information

To arrange an interview with Baroness Jean Corston, Frances Crook, or a former serving female prisoner please contact

Sophie Willett

020 7241 7866


To speak to staff or customers at the Together Women Project, please contact

Rokaiya Khan


ISDN line available on 020 7923 4196 - uses a G722 system

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) was set up to lobby politicians and government ministers with the express intention of making the Corston Report's recommendations real. 

The aim of the APPG is to publicise issues around women in the penal system and push for implementation of the Corston Reforms.