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Evaluation of women's community justice

Published: 1 Sep 2015 15:23
Part of:
Law and order

Holistic approach supports women to take positive steps

A review of women's community justice services across the country has supported the Scottish Government's new approach to dealing with female offenders.

Between 2013 and 2015, the government provided funding to 16 projects across Scotland to provide community services for women who offend. The funding both established new services and developed existing projects, each tailored to the local area where they were based.

An evaluation of these Women's Community Justice Services (WCJS) projects found a holistic and flexible approach helped women make positive changes in their lives and tackle the underlying issues behind their offending.

The evaluation will be formally launched by the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, as he delivered his vision of fairer justice for Scotland at the Apex Annual Lecture on Tuesday 1 September in Edinburgh.

Progress of more than 400 women using WCJS was monitored and the evaluation found 83% had taken positive steps forward, particularly in stabilising their lives and preparing them to make life changes.

Women were also able to access other services offering support with issues like housing, mental health and substance misuse, which also contributes to preventing reoffending.

The evaluation supports the government's new approach to dealing with female offenders, announced in June, moving towards custody in the community, backed by targeted support to address underlying issues. This includes a new small national prison accommodating 80 women, alongside five smaller community-based custodial units each with 20 spaces, in various locations across the country.

The Justice Secretary said:

"I am delighted that this evaluation confirms that the innovative approach of Women's Community Justice Services support women to stabilise their lives, increase their confidence and motivate them to change their lives, all of which are positive steps in preventing reoffending.

"This approach offers a genuine alternative to the traditional approach taken to supervision and rehabilitation for women, by working with women as individuals with strengths, needs and aspirations, rather than focusing on them as 'offenders'."

Chief Officer, South West Scotland Community Justice Authority, Justina Murray, said:

"I welcome the publication of this evaluation report and its lessons for all those who are working with women in the justice system. The Scottish Government's investment in women's justice services has been a timely and welcome response to the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders.

"In particular this funding has enabled us to develop and test out innovative, partnership-based approaches to supporting women in the community. All the evidence tells us that working with women to identify and address their needs, and recognise and build on their strengths, is the best way to reduce future reoffending, by keeping women out of the justice system as far as possible and preventing the ultimate escalation to prison."

Read more about the evaluation here:

Notes to editors

The Scottish Government provided £3.1 million funding for 16 women's community justice services from 2013-15 as part of the commitment to help women offenders turn their lives around, and in line with the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders 2012.

The services were evaluated by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) during 2014-15. The evaluation aimed to examine how women's community justice services work in practice and to what extent they contributed towards positive outcomes (associated with reduced reoffending) for women who offend.