Minister for Prison and Probations, MP Lucy Frazer, revealed new prison places would cost £150 million during an interview on BBC Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour with Anawim CEO Joy Doal and Women in Prison’s Kate Paradine.
This is in comparison to the total of £2 million allocated to women’s organisations which has to be spent by the end of March. After which Women’s Centres like Anawim face a funding cliff edge.
Joy Doal and Kate Paradine condemned the unexpected announcement to build new prison places, which directly contradicts all evidence indicating community solutions are the most effective way to reduce reoffending.
Women’s Centres offer a complete and effective way out for women, working to tackle the root causes of a woman’s involvement in the criminal justice system, such as trauma, adverse childhood experiences and domestic abuse.
On the other hand, time spend in prison does very little to address issues, taking a woman on average 60 miles away from her family and support structures and often resulting in the loss of her home, children and employment.
Women’s Centres save money
In addition to reducing reoffending, Women’s Centres are cost-effective. £48,000 is the average cost of one prison place per year. On the other hand, £44,000 will pay for one caseworker who will work with up to 60 women a year while saving money in areas such as home losses and children going into care.
Despite effectively diverting women away from crime, offering community sentences and resettling women back into the community after prison, the Ministry of Justice has failed to ensure the ongoing sustainability of Women’s Centres.
As a result of the pandemic, charitable trusts have closed their applications, redirecting funds to provide short-term Covid-19 relief. This means Anawim has caseworkers whose funding is up in March and no means of keeping them.
In addition, Anawim’s Drop-in service relies heavily on time generously donated by volunteers.
This is unfortunately nothing new. As a sector we have been reliant on short-term grants and contracts, forcing us to manage a jigsaw of funding with multiple reports required, taking time away from core work.
Although many women’s organisations were in complete support of the Government’s Female Offender Strategy, this latest decision completely undermines it.