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Advisory Board on Female Offenders

Question for Ministry of Justice

UIN 150740, tabled on 8 February 2021

To ask the Secretary of State for Justice, which members of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders were (a) consulted on and (b) informed of the decision to build 500 additional prison places for women prior to the announcement of the 23 January 2021.

Answered on

11 February 2021

The Female Offender Strategy set out the Government’s vision of fewer women offending and reoffending; fewer women in custody, especially on short-term sentences, with a greater proportion of women managed in the community successfully; and where prison is necessary, better conditions for those in custody. The average female prison population in 2010 was 4236, compared to 3126 as of 29 January 2021 - a decrease of 26%. Delivery of the community commitments in our Strategy and in the recent Sentencing White Paper should see this trend continue in the long-term.

We published our latest population projections in November 2020, in which we included prison projections for four scenarios – the three police impact scenarios in response to the plan to recruit an additional 20,000 police offices and a fast court recovery from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

At a meeting of the Advisory Board on Female Offenders (ABFO) on 21 January, attendees were informed that the additional police officers were expected to lead to an increase in the male and female prison populations, and that it was necessary to plan for this, to ensure that there were safe, decent and secure places to meet this demand. On 22 January 2021, in advance of the announcement on 23 January 2021, we informed all ABFO members that up to 500 new places, designed to meet the specific needs of women, will be built in existing prisons to increase availability of single cells and improve conditions as part of the 18,000 additional prison places programme. These places will enable us to hold more women closer to home and their families.

All ABFO members were invited to a workshop on 4 February, attended by the Minister of State for Prisons and Probation, to discuss and understand their views and concerns surrounding the women’s prison estate. During this session, we were able to provide further information on the scope of our work, and our future proposals. We will continue to engage with stakeholders as our plans develop.

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