Less than 10% of women leaving prison get a job

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Fewer than one in 10 women released from a jail sentence of less than 12 months are able to get a job, prison reform campaigners have claimed.

The figure is three times worse than the equivalent figure for men, according to a briefing by the Prison Reform Trust.

In addition, the report claims nearly half of women leaving prison are reconvicted within one year of release.

The briefing calls on the Government to develop a strategy to increase employment opportunities and programmes for women with a criminal record.

Jenny Earle, director of the Prison Reform Trust’s programme to reduce women’s imprisonment, said: “Much more can and should be done by Government, probation and resettlement services and employers to support women into work and financial independence, making them less vulnerable to the abusive relationships that lie behind much of women’s offending.”

Elsewhere, the briefing claims two thirds of women in prison have dependent children, and a third of mothers are single parents prior to their imprisonment.

Four in 10 – or 38% – mothers in custody claim their offending is linked to “a need to support their children”, according to the Prison Reform Trust.

Justice minister Simon Hughes said: ” I’m not prepared to accept a situation where female offenders don’t have the chance to turn their lives around and support themselves and their families.

“As part of our reforms, all women’s prisons are to become resettlement prisons to keep women as close as possible to their homes and families, as well as prepare more effectively for their release back in to their local community.

“We are also supporting female offenders through training and education opportunities in custody, as well as linking up with local employers to help more women find employment on release.”

HMP Send – A very effective women’s prison

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HMP Send was a safe and decent prison which did excellent work to rehabilitate the women it held, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the women’s prison in Surrey.

HMP Send holds just over 280 convicted women prisoners, well over half of whom are serving long or indeterminate sentences for serious offences. Its last inspection was in 2011 and found a settled institution with an impressive regime for prisoners. This inspection found that improvement has continued and Send is now a very successful prison. It is one of the few prisons to achieve the highest grading for outcomes across all four healthy prison tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and resettlement. An excellent range of interventions was offered to address offending behaviour, including a facility to address the needs of women with a personality disorder.

Inspectors were also pleased to find that:

  • Send was a very safe institution where violent incidents were very rare;
  • levels of self-harm continued to reduce and care for those who were vulnerable was good;
  • there was little evidence of significant illicit drug use;
  • women with alcohol issues received appropriate support;
  • living conditions and the environment were generally very good and relationships between staff and prisoners were particularly strong;
  • mental health provision was impressive;
  • prisoners had a good amount of time out of cell and reasonable access to the prison’s grounds;
  • learning and skills provision was well managed and there was sufficient education, training and work for all the women held; and
  • resettlement services were much better than inspectors usually see and offender management arrangements were good.

Inspectors felt that the promotion of equality and diversity required attention, although most outcomes were reasonable, and also thought support for women who had been victims of domestic violence should be improved. The incentives and earned privileges (IEP) arrangements supported the safety of the prison but some requirements, notably that the hoods be cut off women’s coats, were ridiculous.

Nick Hardwick said:

“We highlight a number of relatively minor concerns that will assist the prison, but overall this is an excellent report that describes the work of a very effective prison. Women, some of whom are dealing with long sentences and considerable personal challenges and risks, are kept safely and in a prison that affords them respect. They use their time usefully and their risks are addressed meaningfully. This is not only a good prison; it is a useful and effective prison. The governor and staff should be congratulated on their success.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 June 2014 at: http://www.justiceinspectorates.gov.uk/hmiprisons

HM Prison Eastwood Park – an impressive women’s prison

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The way HMP Eastwood Park responded to the challenges of its population was impressive, said Nick Hardwick, Chief Inspector of Prisons, publishing the report of an unannounced inspection of the Gloucestershire women’s prison.

HMP Eastwood Park holds a needy and transient population from a wide geographical area, taking women from Cornwall in the South West to Wolverhampton in the West Midlands, across Wales and along the south coast. Many women were a long way from home, a particular problem for the large number who also had dependent children. A significant number of women had disabilities, half the population were in touch with mental health services at the prison, almost three-quarters were having treatment for drug and alcohol misuse and there were about 10 self-harm incidents every week. Many of the women had histories of abuse, rape, domestic violence and involvement in prostitution. Few women stayed at the prison for longer than a few weeks with most staying less than three months.

Inspectors were pleased to find that:

  • first night and early days support was now very good and much improved from a previous inspection in 2012;
  • support for women who were vulnerable to self-harm was good and incidence of self-harm had greatly reduced, although it was still high;
  • significant progress had been made in treating and supporting the high number of women with substance misuse problems;
  • the environment was generally decent and staff-prisoner relationships were particularly strong;
  • the very high numbers of women with disabilities had their needs met in a planned and sensitive way;
  • time out of cell was good for all, there were sufficient activity places for the population and a good work ethic was encouraged; and
  • a good range of partner agencies were engaged in resettlement work.

However, inspectors were concerned to find that:

  • around 10% of the population were young adult women aged 18 to 21 and there had been little thought about their specific needs;
  • young adult women were more likely to be involved in self-harm and assaults and less likely to make progress in education;
  • the mother and baby unit was a good resource but was underused;
  • women needed to be allocated to activities more quickly, as many of them stayed in the prison for such a short time; and
  • custody planning for short-sentenced women was underdeveloped.

 

Nick Hardwick said:

“Staff, managers and partner agencies at Eastwood Park, from top to bottom, should be proud of what they have achieved and the impressive mixture of compassion and professionalism we found on this inspection. The problems and needs they deal with go far beyond issues of crime and punishment. A large, closed institution, far from home, cannot be the best place to meet the needs we found among the women at Eastwood Park – and it is in view of those challenges that the outcomes achieved are all the more impressive. There are still areas where improvements is required but they should be seen in the context of these very positive findings overall.”

“The prison is now due to expand and take on a new role as a resettlement prison. We are not yet assured that the rehabilitation model adopted, primarily designed for the male estate, is right for a women’s prison such as Eastwood Park. It will be important that as the new model is developed, full use if made of the experience and expertise available at Eastwood Park and other women’s prisons to ensure it is fit for purpose.”

 

Michael Spurr, Chief Executive Officer of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), said:

“This is an extremely positive report highlighting the excellent work done at Eastwood Park in managing a vulnerable group of women. As the Chief Inspector rightly highlights, the Governor and his staff should be proud of the significant improvements made in providing support especially during the early days in custody and for those with substance misuse issues or those vulnerable to self-harm.

“The prison will continue to build on the progress made as it changes into a resettlement prison, focused on ensuring that all prisoners can maintain crucial family relationships and have access to through-the-gate rehabilitative services.”

A copy of the report can be found on the HM Inspectorate of Prisons website from 3 April 2014 at: http://www.justice.gov.uk/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmi-prisons/prison-and-yoi/eastwoodpark

Duchess of York Lifer – Freed in Weeks?

Jane Andrews
Jane Andrews

A murderer who once worked as an aide to Sarah Ferguson could be freed from her life sentence within weeks after applying for early release – but one prisons expert argues it will be at least another three years before she is in any realistic position to be freed.

Jane Andrews, 46, who stabbed her wealthy lover Thomas Cressman to death in a row over marriage, has reportedly applied for release after reaching the minimum 12 years in prison recommended as part of the life sentence she was given in 2001.

Although she will still have to convince a parole board that she is no longer a danger to society, Andrews, who had a similar release request turned down in 2012, could be back on the streets within weeks.

Andrews became a close friend and confidante of the Duchess of York during nine years as her employee – joining her on royal duties both in the UK and abroad.

In 2000, after Mr Cressman refused to get married, she clubbed the 39-year-old businessman unconscious with a cricket bat at their home in Fulham, west London. She then stabbed him to death.

During an argument in the hours before the murder, Cressman called police saying ‘somebody is going to get hurt’, but officers decided not to attend the scene.

Andrews attacked her boyfriend just a few hours later while he was sleeping.

Shortly after the killing, Andrews contacted her ex-husband Christopher Dunn-Butler and sent out text messages to friends inquiring about her lover’s whereabouts and well-being.

She claimed to have had no involvement in Cressman’s death and said she believed he was being blackmailed.

After she disappeared for several days during the police investigation, officers launched a manhunt and finally located her in Cornwall, where she was found overdosed in her car.

After her recovery and a subsequent police interrogation, Andrews was arrested for murder.

During her trial at the Old Bailey, the court heard Andrews had a history of depression and violent mood swings, and had made several suicide attempts and threats.

Speaking to Jeremy Armstrong at the Mirror, Mr Cressman’s brother Rick said he was ‘disappointed’ Andrews was applying for early release.

He said: ‘She remains a seriously dangerous individual and shouldn’t be freed… we have to live the rest of our lives without Tommy. That’s our life sentence.’

Expressing his anger that Andrews was applying for early release again despite being  turned down two years ago, Mr Cressman added: ‘The justice system allows for people who have committed heinous crimes the opportunity to have parole. As a family we can’t do anything about that.’

Andrews is understood to held at Send Prison in in Surrey, having been moved for East Sutton Park open prison after absconding in 2009.

Andrews spent two days on the run before being returned to the prison, although the Crown Prosecution Service said she would not face additional charges after considering psychiatric reports.

The Parole Board confirmed their review was ‘currently ongoing’, adding that Andrews remained in ‘closed conditions’.

Born to a working class family in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, Andrews was 21 when she answered a personal advert in The Lady for a personal dresser.

She was hired by the Duchess of York six months later and was a trusted member of her inner circle until being made redundant in the late 1990s as part of a Buckingham Palace cost-cutting exercise.

Andrews’ murder trial attracted huge media attention at the turn of their millennium, seemingly as much for the glamorous circles she moved in over the previous decade as for the brutal killing itself.

Mark Leech editor of Converse the national newspaper for prisoners in England and Wales said he thought it ‘highly unlikely’ that she would be freed any time soon.

Mr Leech said: “It is highly unlikely she will be freed any time soon even though she is now post-tariff – that is, has served in excess of her minimum term.

“She remains in closed conditions following her abscond from East Sutton Park in 2009, and that in itself is a huge indicator that she is not yet considered suitable to be trusted.

“Realistically I suspect we are looking at a minimum of three more years before she is in any realistic position to be released – and she will have to be tested in an open prison again for at least a couple of years before release becomes any kind of possibility.”

Women’s Prisons To Close

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Two women’s open prisons, as well as a mother and baby unit in London, are set to close as part of a shake-up of the way female offenders are treated.

HMP Askham Grange in Yorkshire and HMP East Sutton Park (above) in Kent will close “in due course” because the changes will mean there is no longer a requirement for dedicated women’s open prisons.

The mother and baby unit at HMP Holloway in north London will also close due to under-occupancy, the Ministry of Justice announced.

Female inmates will serve their sentences closer to home and will be offered skills to help find work on their release under the new reforms.

Low risk offenders will be encouraged to undertake practical training so they can seek employment following their jail term.

The reforms, announced by Lord McNally, the minister for female offenders, will mean all women’s prisons will become resettlement prisons so that women are close to home and are re-integrated into society.

Lord McNally said: “When a female offender walks out of the prison gates, I want to make sure she never returns.

“Keeping female prisoners as close as possible to their homes, and importantly their children, is vital if we are to help them break the pernicious cycle of re-offending.

“And providing at least a year of support in the community, alongside the means to find employment on release, will give them the best possible chance to live productive, law abiding lives.”

The MoJ said it will test a “pioneering” new open unit at HMP Styal in Cheshire aimed at helping women into jobs on release, with the prospect of a commercial run business at the prison that could provide training and employment for inmates.

In order to ensure there are enough prison places available for women, existing provision at HMP Eastwood Park and HMP Foston Hall will be refurbished and HMP Drake Hall will see modifications to some of its buildings.

Huhne & Pryce freed from prison

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Former Cabinet minister Chris Huhne and his ex-wife were both freed from prison today after serving around a quarter of their eight-month sentences for swapping speeding points.

Huhne, a former energy secretary and once-aspiring Liberal Democrat leader, left Leyhill Prison in Gloucestershire by the main entrance in the back seat of a silver Honda, making no attempt to avoid waiting media cameras.

His ex-wife, economist Vicky Pryce, earlier emerged from East Sutton Park Prison near Maidstone, Kent, via a back exit and left with her solicitor Robert Brown, pursued by press photographers who been camped outside the Category D open jail for women and young offenders.

Huhne will return to the London home he shares with PR adviser Carina Trimingham.

The former Eastleigh MP left Pryce in 2010 as his affair with Ms Trimingham was about to be exposed, ending his 26-year marriage to Pryce and leading her to reveal the speeding points swap to newspapers in a bid to “nail” him.

Pryce is expected to return to her home in Clapham, south London.

The former couple were each handed eight-month prison sentences on March 11 for perverting the course of justice a decade ago when Pryce took speeding points for her then husband.

Huhne finally pleaded guilty to the offence on the first day of their trial in February after months of staunch denials and several attempts to get the case thrown out, while Pryce was later convicted by a jury after a retrial at Southwark Crown Court when her defence of marital coercion failed.

Both will now have to wear electronic tags, used to enforce either a timed curfew or a place of residence, as a condition of their early release.

For sentences of less than a year, an offender is automatically released after serving half of their sentence.

In addition, offenders serving sentences of between three months and four years, with certain exceptions for violent and sexual offenders, may also be eligible for release on a home detention curfew (HDC).

This allows an offender to be released up to 135 days before their automatic release date.

MOTHER JAILED FOR SEX WITH CHILDREN

A mother of five from Dorset who had sex with two teenage boys has been jailed for two-and-a-half years, prosecutors have said.

Davina Travi, 42, slept with the 13-year-old and 14-year-old as a “reward” after they smashed up a love rival’s car.

Travi was convicted of two charges of sexual activity with a child under the age of 16 following a trial.

Jurors were told that Travi would regularly hold parties for children at her former home and let them smoke and drink.

Bournemouth Crown Court heard how Travi had sex with the boys for damaging her ex-lover’s partner’s car.

The court was told the offences came to light when one of the boys told a social worker at his school.

Travi claimed the boys were lying and said it was impossible for her to have sex with them due to a medical condition.

Maria Sciberras, CPS Wessex senior crown prosecutor, said: “Davina Travi, a 42-year-old mother of five children, was today sentenced for having sexual intercourse with two boys whilst they were only 13 and 14 years of age.

“It is a criminal offence for any adult to have a sexual relationship with youths under the age of 16. We hope that this prosecution will enable other teenagers or parents to recognise a similar situation and come forward to the police.”

Travi, of Kinson, Bournemouth, was also placed on the sex offenders’ register for life.

CHIEF INSPECTOR OF PRISONS: “WE CAN’T GO ON LIKE THIS”

Nick Hardwick - Chief Inspector of Prisons

The way women are treated in prisons will leave England and Wales “aghast and ashamed” in years to come, the Chief Inspector of Prisons said today.

Nick Hardwick said the terrible levels of self-mutilation and despair in one women’s unit “kept me awake at night” and the responsibility lies squarely at the door of successive governments.

In a highly-critical lecture, he said the circumstances of the women held in the Keller Unit of Styal Prison in Wilmslow, Cheshire, were “more shocking and distressing than anything I had yet seen on an inspection”.

“We can’t go on like this,” he said.

“Prisons, particularly as they are currently run, are simply the wrong place for so many of the distressed, damaged or disturbed women they hold.

“I think the treatment and conditions in which a small minority of the most disturbed women are held is – in relation to their needs – simply unacceptable.

“I think – I hope – we will look back on how we treated these women in years to come, aghast and ashamed.”

He added he wanted to be “clear where responsibility lies”.

“It does not lie with the officers, staff and governors on the ground – many of whom are simply humbling in the dedication and care with which they approach their work – or the officials and others trying to improve things in the centre,” he said.

“This is a responsibility that lies squarely at the door of successive governments and parliament.”

Mr Hardwick was reflecting on the lack of progress in women’s prisons since the 2007 Corston Report which outlined “the need for a distinct radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach”.

Giving a lecture at the University of Sussex tonight, he went on: “The fact of the matter is that the recommendations Baroness Corston set out would be an effective response to this scandal.”

But without the “strategic recommendations for smaller prisons and greater visible senior leadership” she recommended, “further progress will be very limited”, he said.

Mr Hardwick insisted he did not want to minimise the harm caused by women offenders, or suggest they were all victims, saying it was “a much more complicated picture than that”.

But he said: “I have seen a lot of pretty grim things in my working life but what I saw at the Keller Unit kept me awake at night.

“The levels of self mutilation and despair were just terrible.”

If men were as repeatedly violent to other prisoners in the way women prisoners were to themselves, it would be treated as “a national responsibility” whereas in the case of women, local prisons were left to manage as best they could, he said.

“If nothing else, for pity’s sake, something should be done urgently to try and provide a proper place and care for these lost souls.”

Women make up only 5% of the total prison population, but account for almost half of all self-harm incidents in prisons, he said.

And he questioned why the only dormitories he had seen were in women’s prisons.

“It is a historical legacy I suppose but I suspect that if the same proportion of men were accommodated in dormitories, it would have been treated as a much greater priority,” he said.

He added that a “long chain of men”, from male wing officers and male governors to male prison chiefs and a male chief inspector, “may not be the best structure to respond to the physical and emotional needs of some very troubled women”.

And while East Sutton Park, in Maidstone, Kent, and Askham Grange, in York, were good examples of women’s prisons, others were “increasingly becoming multi-functional”, taking on new roles “and holding women further away from home”.

A “very high level of unmet mental health needs” also lay at the “heart of the issue”, he said.

“A very significant part of the women’s prison population need a level of care that a prison simply cannot provide and indeed, common sense would suggest that a prison was likely to make their condition worse,” he said.

“The different needs and circumstances of men and women prisoners remain as stark today as they did when Baroness Corston wrote her report – little has changed.”

Mark Leech, editor of the national prisoners newspaper Converse said:

“There are around 4,200 women in our prison system, many come to jail after a life time of emotional, sexual and physical abuse – despite representing just 5% of the prison population they account for well over 50% of incidences of self-harm.

“Five years ago the Corston Report outlined the need for a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach to women in prison, it has largely been ignored and its central recommendation, that all women’s prisons be closed and their occupants transferred to distinct wings in male prisons, has even failed to be debated – does it really need to take a riot in a female prison before Ministers sit up and take notice?”

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust campaign group, said Mr Hardwick’s speech “highlights the failure of successive governments and parliament to ensure effective accountability and oversight of women’s justice”.

“As the chief inspector makes clear, without proper measures to ensure women are a priority for government they will continue to be a neglected minority in the justice system,” she said.

“The cost of this neglect can be counted in a depressing litany of wasted time, lives and money.”

Ms Lyon went on: “With peers set to debate amendments to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill to reform women’s justice, the Government has the opportunity to put an end to this damaging legacy of neglect and make good the extraordinary omission of women from the Bill.”

Read the full speech: http://www.prisons.org.uk/Women_in_prison.pdf