Prison Reform Trust (2017) “There’s a reason we’re in trouble” Domestic abuse as a driver to women’s offending.
The Prison Reform Trust – an independent UK charity working to create a just, humane and effective prison system – published a report today, 4th December 2017, on women in prison who have been victims of much more serious offences that those of which they have been convicted. In collaboration with User Voice and Advance in England, Llamau in Wales and the 218 Service in Scotland, the Prison Reform Trust talked to women about their experience of committing offences under pressure from a partner, on behalf of a partner, to protect the partner or themselves in connection with domestic abuse, including coercive and controlling behaviour.
The charity Women in Prison report that 79% of women who used their services have experienced domestic violence and/or sexual abuse. According to the report, 57% of women in prison report having been victims of domestic violence and 53% report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child compared to 27% of men. Due to a fear of disclosing abuse, these figures are likely to be underestimated.
The report highlights the strong link between women’s experience of domestic and sexual abuse and coercive relationships, and their offending. This leads to women encountering a culture of disbelief in the criminal justice system about the violence and exploitation to which they may have been exposed to.
Some of the recommendations from the report are as follows:
- The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should work closely together and in consultation with the Welsh government to ensure that the forthcoming women offenders strategy addresses the extent to which domestic and sexual violence and abuse underpin the life experience of many women offenders.
- The Home Office and Ministry of Justice should include clear expectations on criminal justice agencies to improve their responses to women.
- The police, prosecuting authorities, probation services and the courts should adopt the practice of appropriate, routine inquiry into women’s histories of domestic and sexual violence at each stage of the criminal justice process to ensure informed decision making and proportionate responses.
The charity runs a programme titled ‘Reducing Women’s Imprisonment’ with the Director, Jenny Earle, stating that “It is time for concerted action to help break the cycle of victimisation and offending that blights the lives of too many women and their children. Our recommendations have been developed in consultation with women who have been personally driven to commit crimes by violent partners, and the services that support them. If implemented, we would see both a reduction in the incidence of domestic abuse and fewer women unnecessarily imprisoned”.
Read more about the report here.