Posted: Friday 21st June 2019
There’s been a lot of discussion over the past few weeks regarding offending and rehabilitation. I’m pleased to see that these issues are being aired by our ministers and the media. It’s this debate which is fundamental to making positive changes to stop the ‘revolving door’ of prison and offending. In particular there has been a focus on women offenders, the impact of short sentences and the influence of family ties, mostly children to the rehabilitation of women and the future outcomes of children. Over half (54%) of women in prison have children under the age of 18 and only 5% of children remain in the family home when their mother is sent to prison. Unsurprisingly prisoners who receive family visits are 39% less likely to reoffend, and research suggests that these relationships are even more important for women than they are for men. This new report by Lord Michael Farmer on the value of prisoners’ family ties has found that healthy relationships are a ‘must have’ when it comes to preventing women from reoffending.
These debates are timely with the work going on within Avon and Somerset on these very issues. At the start of June, the way women offenders are supported in Avon and Somerset was highlighted in a national thought provoking report by crime and justice specialists Crest Advisory. Avon and Somerset’s SHE (Support, Help and Engagement) programme provides evidence to the debate that women offenders need a different approach to men due to their different offending patterns, needs and vulnerabilities. Women offenders are frequently among the most vulnerable individuals in society, often suffering from abuse, substance misuse and mental health problems. It is also for these reasons that the existence of strong family ties is so crucial to rehabilitation.
Crest Advisory’s report argues that offenders, particularly women need personalised and tailored approaches to deliver a better balance between punishment and rehabilitation. SHE, in Avon and Somerset, applies to any woman who is arrested for a low level offence, and is over the age of 18. It’s a voluntary referral scheme, where women are offered support and intervention to prevent reoffending. Those referred to the scheme are provided with an initial appointment with a SHE worker at a local female support hub, delivered by the Nelson Trust. We are lucky to have some fantastic charities offering woman specialist services and one-to-one support across our area. It’s essential that we better rehabilitate offenders, reduce offending and ultimately cut crime in our communities.
Last week I was delighted to once again jointly host the Be Proud awards, recognising the best on the beat across Avon and Somerset Constabulary. It truly is one of the most special nights of my year. I love hearing all the remarkable stories from individuals and teams and seeing their families, partners and loved ones well up with pride as certificates and trophies are handed out. This is the one awards ceremony within Avon and Somerset Constabulary where we ask local people to nominate police officers, staff, volunteers and teams and I would like to say a big thank you to all our residents who took the time to nominate someone. It means a lot to all our winners and to me and the Chief Constable. You can find out about all our finalists on my website www.avonandsomerset-pcc.gov.uk