The All Party Parliamentary Group on Women in the Penal System (APPG), chaired by Baroness Corston, has 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".