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Men’s prisons do much more for them: men do training courses which give them skills to offer an employer (A.4)

at the same time, most of those who complained about the more limited education and training options in the women’s estate recognised that, most likely, the differences in range of opportunity stem from there being so few women in prison as compared with men - and none wanted to argue that increasing numbers of women should be sent to prison so that, with more economies of scale, the women’s prisons could offer more courses or employment!

Hypothesis 3 Present in-prison and post-prison measures and programmes for the social integration or reintegration of women ex-prisoners are not being fully implemented. The evidence presented below supports this hypothesis though the Report authors are confident that, given the political will and appropriate levels of funding, the two most recently published action plans by the Home Office Women’s Offending Reduction Programme Team and the Prison Service’s Women’s Team are both well-appraised of the extent of the shortfall in programme delivery and have made adequate plans to address it.

Criminal and Penal Justice in England and Wales The United Kingdom consists of three separate jurisdictions: England and Wales; Scotland; and Northern Ireland. For the purpose of this project, we focus only on England and Wales. The age of criminal responsibility is 10 years but young people between 10 and 17 years are dealt with in the Youth Court. This project focuses only on adults of 18 years and over.

Legislation covering sentencing and prisons All criminal cases involving adults are heard initially in the Magistrates Courts and 95% of cases are completed there before lay or stipendiary (legally trained) magistrates. Magistrates’ sentencing powers are limited and they can impose only short prison sentences (less than 12 months). The Crown Court deals with more serious cases, including those where the defendant elects trial by jury, and has unlimited sentencing powers (within sentencing legislation). The effect of the different courts on the prison population is that magistrates send many people to prison for a short time, whereas Crown Court judges send fewer people to prison but for longer terms.

Sentencing is currently governed by The Criminal Justice Act 1991 which aims to provide a coherent framework for sentencing based on the ‘just deserts’ principle. The key factor is sentencing decisions is the seriousness of the offence before the court, although the concept of seriousness can be influenced by an offender’s previous criminal record. Prison is supposed to be regarded as a ‘last resort’ and when the Act was first implemented, the prison population declined. However, for a number of socio-economic and political reasons, that trend was reversed and the prison population has been rising dramatically in the past ten years.

Section 95 of the Act requires the Home Secretary to publish information that will assist sentencers in avoiding discrimination on grounds of sex, race or any other improper ground. Each year, two publications provide very useful summaries of the statistics relating to both women and ethnic minorities and the criminal justice system. Both publications are available on the web.


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