The View is a social enterprise which campaigns for the decarceration of non-violent women in the criminal justice system, and for proper funding of community interventions and mental health services. We want a justice system in which women receive fair sentencing, one which is free of racial discrimination and gender inequality.
We publish a quarterly magazine that pays and recognises women with lived experiences for their work. We are calling for an inquiry into the government’s proposal to roll out more women’s centres, so fewer women’s lives are torn apart and there is less trauma inflicted on over 17 500 children when mothers are imprisoned.
Currently, existing women’s centres are not properly scrutinised or monitored, and there are issues with sustainable and consistent funding.
We want these centres to be less about “keeping women controlled” to a place where women can develop skills and autonomy.
Over 54% of women prisoners are victims of domestic abuse, more than 80% have 2 or more mental health issues.
Most of these women have suffered trauma in their lives and need a place to heal, a place of nurturing, not an extension of the state’s control, prisons in the community. You can’t paint punishment pink, sprinkle it with glitter and rainbows and pretend it is helping women when there us any element of control attached to attendance.
Women’s centres have the ability to become positive places for rehabilitation and understanding what led a woman to commit crimes, but only if they are run with accountability and transparency.
In the first week of August, The View explored various women’s centres and also the government’s proposal for building more of these. You can read about these on our blog.
Proposed New Centres, Prisons by another name?
Women’s centres have the ability when properly run with the women who have to attend them involved in their creation and development, to help rehabilitate women who would have otherwise been sentenced to custodial punishments. However, although they are an alternative, they are not supposed to be prisons.
The View raised this at the event organised by Clinks for the MOJ, which was an online conference to discuss the MOJ’s plans to develop a residential women’s centre (RWC) pilot in at least five sites across England and Wales. The issue of concern is around enforcement, as this is a voluntary placement but if women choose not to take the alternative to custody option then they will be sentenced to custody.
We question whether these are not just more penal institutions, and therefore another word for prison. There are also problems with the lack of clarity over limited housing stock, whether women would resettle in the RWC area and whether travel costs would be covered if a woman moved out of the area.
Academics raise other issues percolating in the discussions of some women’s centres – Pink Punishment is the practice of painting something pink and calling it empowerment, which is disingenuous and ignores that the criminal justice system is a space of trauma for women. Women’s centres need to rehabilitate and address the root causes of trauma for women, not be a place of shame and added grief.
Rehabilitation Centres to Reinvent Prisoners?
In Friday’s blog, Shivalee Patel poses how rehabilitation centres can reinvent prisoners? She argues that when people are sentenced to prison, they will be labelled for the rest of their lives, based upon a moment when they were at their worst, and acted out.
It is important to remember Women’s Centres are for women who pose a low to moderate risk (of what is debatable, danger, reoffending?), these women are not dangerous criminals. These are women suffering unhealed trauma who need care not cages.
When run properly, women’s centres can provide emotional support, employment support, the ability to reintegrate with families, communities and society as a whole. They should not punish or de-humanise, only heal.
Demand your MP calls for an investigation into Women’s Centres
We ask you to write to your MP asking for investigation into the use of women’s centres. Engagement with these centres should be voluntary, but in some areas, it has now become enforced via ‘specified activity requirements’ within the community, suspended sentence orders and conditional cautions. We should provide women with an education and courses that are accredited that can help them acquire a career. Women’s centres need to be robustly monitored and clear policies need to be put in place for those who wish to make a complaint about their treatment. We are asking that they are reviewed and instead, more compassionate alternatives to women’s imprisonment are considered.
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