National Report: England and Wales
The research on the resettlement of released women prisoners in England and Wales reported here was conducted at a time of great change in the organisation of the responses to female offenders. In 2000 the government published its Strategy for women offenders (Home Office 2000); in 2002 the Social Exclusion Unit published its Reducing offending by ex-prisoners; in 2003 a government-commissioned Report outlined a new strategy for managing offenders (Carter 2003); and in 2004 prison services for women offenders were reorganised with the Prison Service’s Women’s Policy Group (WPG) being abolished and the women’s estate being returned to geographical (rather than functional) management, supported by the Prison Service’s Women’s Team. The latter published its first business plan in June 2004 (Prison Service Women’s Team 2004) and in the same month the Women’s Offending Reduction Programme Team at the Home Office also published its Action Plan (Home Office Women’s Offending Reduction Programme Team 2004), a strategy for action which will be rolled out in the next three years. A much more fundamental reorganisation of the delivery of punishment to both male and female offenders will occur later in 2004 when prison and probation services merge to form the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), one justification for which being that thereafter NOMS will provide a more co-ordinated service delivery than had been possible when prison and probation services remained organisationally separate (Carter 2003). At the time of writing this Report (August 2004) these most recent initiatives have hardly got underway and it remains to be seen whether they will eventually have significant impact on women’s offending, imprisonment and resettlement. As recently as April 2004, however, the Chief Inspector of Probation was writing:
I have to report that the last two and a half years have seen little or no progress in the dismal prisoner resettlement situation on which we and others reported in 2001- 2002. There are great aspirational plans…but the practical, operational situation on the ground has, if anything, deteriorated. (Morgan 2004:4)
However, for workers within the women’s system a more encouraging and even more recent sign of government intent was that the Women’s Offending Reduction Programme was mentioned in the Government’s 2004 Spending Review as not only aiming to meet the specific needs of women offenders but also to reduce the need for custody. The Women’s Offending Reduction Programme, published in March 2004, responds to the challenges in implementing this agenda for women. Over the 2004 Spending Review period the Government will pilot radical new approaches to meet the specific needs of women offenders, to tackle the causes of crime and re-offending among this group and reduce the need for custody.