WIP Statement: Response to the Farmer Review for Women

Dr Kate Paradine (CEO of Women in Prison) in response to the Farmer Review for Women said:

If the Treasury spent the £80 million it received from the sale of Holloway Prison on specialist support for women and children, including domestic violence services and women’s centres, the results would be transformational - for women, children and communities, and for generations to come. As Lord Farmer says: “a relatively modest investment will go a long way.

In his report, Lord Farmer sets out the devastating impact on women, children and families when mothers and children are separated by imprisonment - often resulting in “profound and lifelong consequences” for whole families.

Even a few weeks in prison is enough to lose your job, home and children. Women are far more likely than men to be primary carers and, in 95% of cases when a mother goes to prison, her children end up leaving their family home to live with relatives or go into the care system. Having a parent in prison increases the chances that a child will offend, particularly when their mother is imprisoned. There is still no official data on how many babies are born in prison each year.

The Report says: “A woman’s prison term should not turn into a life sentence for her and her family”. Lord Farmer has said that he does not see his report as a “ceiling”, but as a base from which to build. Indeed, many of the recommendations are basic, including the need for sentencers to have access to a Pre-Sentence Report (PSR) in order to understand the full implications of any sentence imposed (including on children, when consideration is being given to imprisonment of their primary carer). This applies to the sentencing of men as much as it does to women.

Women in Prison applauds Lord Farmer’s recognition of the importance of the specialist voluntary sector, particularly providers of women’s centres and domestic violence services. Around 60% of women in prison have experience of domestic abuse and a third grew up in care. It is common for women in this position to have a deep distrust in statutory agencies. That is one reason why the Farmer Review recognises the importance of independent support services, both in prison and in the community.

WIP welcomes the Review’s recognition that in many cases support services are fragmented and face a “desperately precarious” funding position, jeopardising services “which are essential to the rehabilitation and rebuilding of the lives of so many women”. The Farmer Report is clear that this must change.

Lord Farmer says: “Not every area will need a full-time women’s centre but women in every area should have access to the kinds of services they provide.”

Women in Prison agrees that the treatment of women and their families in the criminal justice system can be a “pacesetter” for the whole system to drive positive change, reducing reoffending and helping individuals to rebuild their lives, and those of their families. That must start with a radical reduction in women’s imprisonment and systematic focus on the root causes of offending.

Dr Kate Paradine says, “Like the Ministry of Justice’s Women’s Strategy, the Farmer Review presents opportunities to lay the foundations for a new system based on what works in reducing offending. But that requires long term core funding from government for women’s support services and an acceptance that criminal justice responses will never be able to solve complex social justice problems.”