Together Women Manifesto for Women and Girls affected by the Criminal Justice System

Jun 24, 2024

Together Women Manifesto for Women and Girls affected by the Criminal Justice System


At Together Women, we recognise the experience of the criminal justice system for women and girls is rooted with challenges, complexities, and injustices. The deeply entrenched issues of abuse, trauma, and systemic bias continue to impact countless lives, demanding urgent and comprehensive action.

We are calling upon the government to acknowledge the unique experiences of women and girls within the criminal justice system. It is imperative to implement long-term, sustainable changes that foster a safer, fairer, more equitable society. The upcoming election presents a critical opportunity for meaningful reform.

The current picture is stark. The system is regularly failing women, often criminalising vulnerable and traumatised individuals, and in turn increasing chances of offending and reoffending. Prisons are not conducive environments for women to overcome the multiple challenges they face, and prison sentences do not address the root causes of why women offend.

When we send women to prison, it also has a huge ripple effect, often contributing to family breakdown, children going into the care system, and families losing their income and homes. It makes no sense that nearly two-thirds of women are in prison for non-violent offenses and receive sentences of less than six months.

Extensive research also shows that women in prison are 5 times more likely to have mental health difficulties compared to women in the general population; over 70% are in recovery from or are living with substance abuse; nearly three-quarters are survivors and victims of domestic abuse and sexual violence; and self-harm for women in prison is twice as high, as for men in prison, with self-harm rates continuing to rise.

There is a better way to do things and we have the evidence to prove it. Together Women, through our community-based Women’s Centre model, are striving to change the current outlook—offering an alternative to custody through our community-based model of personalised and trauma-informed support, helping women feel valued and in control of their lives.

Our Women’s Centres provide support for issues key to women’s well-being, including physical and mental health, domestic abuse, substance abuse, counselling, housing, healthy relationships, employment, debt, and much more. By recognising every woman’s experience as unique and gender-specific, we help women recover, find their power, and take control of their lives away from the criminal justice system, ultimately contributing to healing trauma and reducing crime.

Our manifesto is a call to action. It demands a complete overhaul of the system, real investment in proven solutions, and a steadfast commitment to ending the cycles of disadvantage and harm that women and girls face.

Together, we can build a future where every woman and girl feels safe and supported.

Our Top Asks for the next Government

  1. End Custodial Sentences for Non-Violent Offenses

Complete abolition of custodial sentences for non-violent offenses committed by women. Prioritise community-based solutions that address the underlying causes of offending, such as trauma and economic instability. Redirect resources towards rehabilitation programs, diversion schemes, and support services.

  1. Increase Funding for Women’s Centres

Invest in the sustainability of women’s centres nationwide to ensure long-term support and stability. These centres provide vital holistic support services, including mental health counselling, substance abuse treatment, housing assistance, and employment training.

  1. End the Use of Short Sentences

Eliminate the use of custodial sentences of less than six months for women. Redirect resources towards community-based rehabilitation programs and support services. Short sentences are ineffective and exacerbate social and economic challenges for women and their families.

  1. Address Violence Against Women and Girls

Prioritize efforts to combat violence against women and girls (VAWG). Increase funding for prevention programs, survivor support services, and legal aid. Ensure specialized support for all women in the criminal justice system who have experienced violence, focusing on trauma recovery and pathways to justice.

  1. Expand Access to Mental Health and Substance Programs

Invest in expanding access to specialized mental health and substance abuse programs tailored to women in the criminal justice system. Integrate these services at every stage of the criminal justice process to address underlying mental health issues and reduce reoffending.

  1. Ensure Childcare and Family Support Services

Provide comprehensive childcare and family support services to strengthen family bonds crucial for women’s rehabilitation and successful reintegration. Support programs should include childcare assistance, parenting classes, and family therapy.

  1. Enhance Education and Employment Opportunities

Invest in targeted education and vocational training programs for women in the criminal justice system to improve employability and reduce recidivism. These programs support women in building sustainable livelihoods upon release.

  1. Guarantee Safe and Suitable Housing

Ensure all women leaving the criminal justice system have access to safe, secure, and suitable housing. Address homelessness and housing instability, critical factors in reducing offending and supporting successful reintegration.

  1. Support Holistic Health Services

Invest in holistic health services for women in the criminal justice system, integrating physical health, mental health, and reproductive health care within women’s centres. Addressing their complex health needs effectively supports their recovery and reintegration.

*All statistics about women in the criminal justice system are taken from the Ministry of Justice publication: ‘Statistics on Women and the Criminal Justice System 2021’ published in November 2022.

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