Women prisoners will be allowed to have their children sleep over in purpose-built cells as they prepare for release, it was revealed today.
In a bid to ease female inmates into normal life, the Ministry of Justice has announced an extra 500 cells in existing prisons.
They will include en-suite showers and ‘provide greater opportunities for employment and education’, the ministry said.
The move will enable some mothers to be reunited with their children behind bars as part of a bid to ‘prepare for life back home’.
Female prisoners will be allowed to have their children sleep over as they prepare for release
And the announcement comes alongside a £2million funding package to help steer vulnerable women from a life of crime.
The cash will be used to help 38 women’s charities, refuges and therapy centres stay afloat during the pandemic by helping them with their wages, rent and bills.
Prisons minister Lucy Frazer said: ‘This funding boost will allow frontline services to continue the incredible work they do with some of the most vulnerable women in our society to prevent them being drawn into crime.
‘Many female offenders suffer complex issues and have experienced very traumatic lives. It’s only by addressing this that we will break the costly cycle of reoffending.’
But the amount of money given to charities is ‘dwarfed’ by the cost of the new cells, which critics said is a waste of money.
Andrew Neilson, of the charity Howard League for Penal Reform, said: ‘If the goal is to reduce the number of women entering the criminal justice system, then today’s announcement shows ministers are looking at the issue down the wrong end of a telescope.
‘The touted £2million of investment for community services is dwarfed by the money being sunk into 500 new prison places for women, which in a single year alone will cost more than ten times what is being offered to those helping vulnerable women before they ever reach custody.
‘The Howard League’s own work with the police on reducing the arrests of women shows that energy, focus and resources need to be placed in the community if women are to be effectively steered away from crime.’
He added: ‘Instead of hedging in favour of failure by throwing more money at women’s prisons, the Government should be bold and put investment into the community where it really matters.’
The female prison population has fallen by 10 per cent in the last decade, however the Government’s pledge to recruit 20,000 extra police officers means the figure is soon expected to rise.
The new prison places will be funded by the Government’s £4billion package to provide 18,000 new places in jails, as pledged in its manifesto.
Emily Evison, of the Prison Reform Trust, said the Government’s assumptions of a rise in women prisoners following the recruitment of 20,000 new police officers is ‘a mark of failure’.
She added that ‘instead of planning for a rise, the Government should redouble its efforts to ensure that women are not being sent to prison to serve pointless short sentences’.
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