project aims to ensure women can access and sustain appropriate education, training and employment.
Operational Difficulties Confronting NGOs Working
with Prisoners and Ex-
Prisoners Although the working with
Prison Service has ex-prisoners, NGO
recently established partnerships staff working with disadvantaged
with many NGOs women find that
problems. We interviewed 13 from the main agencies making for women in trouble in the criminal justice, mental health and
penal systems to find out what kind of operational difficulties they still face.
Lack of funds. All of the NGO workers cited lack of funds, leading to
staff as being as the main operational difficulty confronting them.
‘We are continuously fundraising and justifying what we do’ (A. 24) ‘Always shortage of funding’ (A.17)
Exploitation by Prison Service. In the context of their recurrent funding difficulties many of the NGO staff thought it ironical that the Prison Service would use their staff without paying for their services. They felt obliged to help women in prison who requested their help and also felt that the recognition of their services might result in a contract to work in the prisons at some later date, but none the less, several workers felt that the Prison Service was being hypocritical in saying that they valued their services, and yet not paying them. They actually ask us to go in – they ask us to help with particular women. But they don’t offer to pay us. (A.18)
Programme and Project Accreditation issues. Workers in some NGOs felt aggrieved by an increasingly centralised system of accreditation of resettlement programmes and projects which hold to a very narrow conception of the (psychological) causes of women’s crime and women’s ‘needs’, and in so doing reject programmes and projects which lay greater emphasis of the social and relational causes.
Fragmentation of services.
‘Services are so fragmented, that’s our main problem. Systems are not managed and everything is haphazard’ (A.22)
‘There is so much managerialism and yet nothing hangs together. Now there is no Women’s Policy Group, things will be worse (A.20).
‘Demise of the Women’s Policy Group is the worst thing that could happen’ (A.16).
‘Nothing is joined up. ‘Joined-up’ is talked about, but it doesn’t happen (A14).
‘The level of need we have in the area of ex-prisoners takes some management, and we need the money to match the scale of the demand (A13).
Suspicion and obstruction from some prison staff. Despite many efforts on the part of the Prison Service to bring prison staff and NGO staff into a greater understanding of each other’s functions and objectives, NGO staff still complained that prison staff frequently obstructed them when they visited prisoners. Prison staff can be obstructive. There is a different culture between us and them. (A.22)
There is prejudice against all prisoners, but against foreign, ethnic minority and women prisoners in particular. And also, still especially bad feeling against ‘drug importers’. Not realising that these women are just very, very poor women, not gangsters. (A.18)