The Corston Report: Ten Years On

How far have we come on the road to reform for women affected by the criminal justice system?
The year 2017 marks a decade since the publication of the Corston report – A review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the Criminal Justice System.

The 43 recommendations in the Corston report provided a roadmap for women-specific criminal justice reform. They gained cross-party support and were broadly accepted by three successive governments. Here, we aim to give an overview of what progress has been made to date in the implementation of the Corston recommendations. Considering each of the recommendations of the Corston report in isolation does not suffice to appreciate the overall vision and ethos embedded in Baroness Corston’s report. Her overarching aim was that of systems change, of “a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach”.

It is important, therefore, that we ask ourselves to what extent there has been fundamental systems change for women affected by the criminal justice system and what major barriers still impede its implementation. We would like to highlight as a continued priority for government the following five, interlinked, key areas for systemic change:

  • Expansion of and sustained funding for women’s centres in the community as “one-stop-shops” to prevent women entering or returning to the criminal justice system (recommendations number 29, 30, 32 and 33).
  • Liaison and diversion schemes to be extended and rolled out nationally to divert women away from custody into support (recommendations number 33 and 36).
  • Specialist community support, including mental health support (recommendations number 36, 37, 39 and 40) and accommodation for women affected by the criminal justice system (recommendations number 16 and 21).
  • Sentencing reform with greater use of alternatives to custody and women’s community support services (recommendations number 18, 19, 20, 22, 23 and 24).
  • Coordinated, joined-up working between all agencies involved in the lives of women affected by the criminal justice system (recommendations number 1, 7, 8, 9 and 39).

In order to achieve true systems change for women affected by the criminal justice system, it is vital for policy makers to recognise that criminal justice solutions alone are not sufficient to deal with offending. Nor is the Ministry of Justice, in isolation, able to implement the changes needed to reduce (re)offending. What is required is a joined-up approach that takes into account the root causes of women’s offending. This approach must encompass an understanding of the compelling opportunities for change that appropriate housing, mental health support and gender-specific women’s community support services can offer.

Read our first report Coston +5