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There are better answers than jail for women who have offended

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23.06.2019

Chris Tchaikovsky – queen of charisma, 6ft tall, witty, clever, the only one of six middle-class sisters to serve time in prison – was, for a period, head of the Happy Firm, a team dealing in stolen travellers’ cheques. Then she went straight, co-founding the charity Women in Prison. She died, aged 57, in 2002, but on Wednesday, her spirit will be at Westminster as women come to lobby their MPs to invest in a different kind of justice – one that works.

A year ago this week, the government published its female offender strategy. It contained much of what Tchaikovsky campaigned for over decades. The strategy says that if justice is to be delivered and reoffending reduced, prison for women, the majority of whom (85%) commit non-violent offences, should be replaced. In its stead should come sentences in the community and intensive support to address the issues common to chaotic lives – addiction, trauma, debt, homelessness. By and large, it’s not posh people who do porridge.

Last week, the Farmer review into maintaining ties between prisoners and families also commended women’s centres and specialist services in the voluntary sector that deliver the kind of support that turns around lives. They do so by investing in the assets that women have, rebuilding trust in relationships and addressing trauma, substance misuse and the scars inflicted by poverty at a fraction of the cost of prison.

Farmer also warned that women’s........

© The Guardian