We were very impressed to read Alex Claridge’s excellent and insightful article headlined My Life of Crime (Herne Bay Gazette, October 30) raising awareness about the sad life story of a very vulnerable woman. From our recent work on the subject, we know that Joanne’s story is typical of many women caught up in the criminal justice system. Women who commit crime are highly likely to be victims as well as offenders. Research shows that more than half 53%-of women in prison report having experienced emotional, physical or sexual abuse as a child. Almost half – 46% – report having been victims of domestic violence. Imprisoning mothers, in particular, for non-violent offences has a damaging impact on their children as well as being costly to the state.
We believe a different attitude and approach is badly needed to enable these women to move on more positively in their lives and reduce the risk of re-offending. I am writing on behalf of Soroptimist International, which is an international women’s organisation who work together to transform the lives of women and girls locally and around the world. Since April last year, Soroptimists throughout the UK have worked in partnership with the Prison Reform Trust to reduce the imprisonment of women who do not pose a danger to the public. The Canterbury club earlier this year hosted a focus group of people from relevant local organisations, to pool together information about services available locally to women in difficulty, and ask delegates what they would like to see improved. We are now working with some of the delegates to support their efforts to reduce women’s re-offending.
More information can be obtained from the Prison Reform Trust website www.prisonreformtrust.org.uk/ProjectsResearch/Women
Carol Salter, President, Soroptimist International Canterbury
Herne Bay Gazette, November 20th 2014