Y Pwyllgor Cydraddoldeb a Chyfiawnder Cymdeithasol
Equality and Social Justice Committee24/10/2022
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Altaf Hussain AS|
|Jane Dodds AS|
|Jenny Rathbone AS||Cadeirydd y Pwyllgor|
|Ken Skates AS|
|Sarah Murphy AS|
|Sioned Williams AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Andrea Coomber KC||Howard League for Penal Reform|
|Howard League for Penal Reform|
|Emily Evison||Prison Reform Trust|
|Prison Reform Trust|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Angharad Roche||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Rachael Davies||Ail Glerc|
|Sam Mason||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 13:30.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 13:30.
Good afternoon. I'd like to welcome Members, witnesses, and members of the public to the Equality and Social Justice Committee this afternoon. This is a hybrid meeting, with some members participating from the Senedd and other members, and witnesses taking part virtually, via video-conference. The public items of this meeting are being broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and simultaneous translation from Welsh to English is available. I've received no apologies for absence today. Are there any declarations of interest from Members? No, I don't see any, so thank you very much.
And I wondered, just before we go on to our scrutiny session, if Members could just note the two items of correspondence that we've received—if we agree to note them. Thank you very much.
And now, we'll move on to our first evidence session on women's experience in the criminal justice system. So, I'm very pleased to welcome Anne Fox, from Clinks; Emily Evison, from the Prison Reform Trust; and Andrea Coomber, from the Howard League for Penal Reform, who are all joining us remotely. Thank you very much indeed for making the time to talk to us, and thank you very much for the written evidence that we had from the Prison Reform Trust and the Howard League. I just wanted to start by asking you what progress you think we've made since the women's justice blueprint, which is an agreement between the Welsh Government and the UK Ministry of Justice, in terms of moving forward on the objectives that have been agreed? Who would like to go first? Anne Fox, do you want to go first?
Prynhawn da. Thank you. I suppose colleagues will probably have specific things that they want to say, but one of the things that I wanted to draw attention to in this blueprint is the level of leadership and the amount of work that's gone into making this blueprint really work, as a partnership that works across an area that's not devolved, but also very much involving those areas of policy that are devolved in Wales, where much of women's needs come from the criminogenic needs that mean that they're in the justice system in the first place—so particularly related to health, or education, or employment, or housing, or family support—and the violence that many women may have experienced in their own homes.
And with that in mind, the blueprint itself has always been very aspirational and very positive, but I'm delighted to see that it has continued to operate in that way. And I think that that has been down to a lot of the way that we work together on it, and it brings in all of those agencies that need to. So, there's an awful lot of work that happens around the blueprint. There are a number of detailed work streams, and it's got that leadership and that connection. So I think, in terms of overall implementation, I would like to say that it's going quite well—it's doing what people wanted it to do, despite setbacks and challenges that we've all experienced over the last few years.
Very good. Who'd like to go next? Andrea? Or, Emily, do you want to go next?
Yes, absolutely. Just building on what Anne said there, I'm not really able to report specifically on specific progress of the individual deliverables, but we really welcomed the blueprint when it was published in 2019. And I think the partnership working and the focus on early intervention and diversion was really welcomed, and, alongside that, the implementation plan, with clear deliverables, responsible organisations attached, and timetables have been really key. I sit on the all-Wales women in justice meetings, and, at all those meetings, we have progress regularly reported against the blueprint. And with the multi-agencies that attend that meeting, it's clear that both barriers and concerns are raised and then discussed how they might be dealt with. So, yes, I think it's clear to say that we are going some way to implementing the blueprint.
Much the same. I'm afraid we're not in a position to comment on the detail of implementation, but as a document, as Emily said, the fact that it's not just an aspirational piece of text but is based in partnership working with a clear implementation plan, with timelines and deliverables, it is encouraging, to say the least. And the feedback that we hear, particularly from judges in Wales, is that it is resonating, people are understanding the importance of it and, hopefully, that's going to result in better outcomes for women.
There seems to be quite a lot of agreement between the Welsh Government and the UK Government, but it's over four years since the UK Government published its whole-system approach for female offenders. How much actual work has been done to intercept and divert women away from the criminal justice system, both in Wales and across England and Wales? Because fine words are one thing, but every time we are failing to do something, we are causing yet more disruption to the lives of women and their children. Anne.
I think this is probably an area where the progress on the blueprint has perhaps been better than across the UK and the female offending strategy. That's not to say that it's perfect, but there's definitely been more, and more to build on in terms of early intervention and prevention, and the diversion schemes. Now, you've got the whole-system approach in Wales, so the whole-system work that happened, certainly in England, that work paused, although there is now some reinvestment in women's services. I do think that more needs to be done to ensure that that level of activity can be maintained. And one of the areas, I think, on the previous question that we still need to look at, is the integration of community and custody provision, particularly for Welsh women who will be imprisoned abroad and away from their homes—quite a distance from home. And we would never advocate for a prison in Wales, but while Welsh women are sent to prison, that additional level of need has to be looked at.
There are some real positives in some of the work around the whole-system approach, and really worth looking at, but I think the levels—we still haven't seen those levels—and I know that there will be questions to be asked around the amount that sentencers are confident in what there is for women, what can actually be given, and the information that's known about a woman's needs and what meets those needs in that community. I think, for us, until pre-sentence reports are really done as a matter of course on all women, we won't really know what women need and what might be provided for them. And, certainly, for those of us in the voluntary sector, where those services can be developed, you need to know what needs you're meeting in order to know what you need to provide, and pre-sentence reports will give the best indication there.
So, that simply isn't happening as a matter of routine?
Okay. thank you. Jane Dodds wanted to come in.
Yes. Sorry, just to follow up on that issue as well. So, what is the issue around PSRs not being ordered? Is it about capacity in the probation system, or judges not being aware? What is the barrier there? Do we know?
Well, I think we hear different things from different people. Sometimes, probation suggests that it's in the judges' gift to ask for them and they're not being asked for. Otherwise, it might be more that PSRs are performed on the day and they're oral, and in that case, women are very unlikely to tell the sentencers the things that they need to know, because they haven't developed that kind of relationship. So, it's not even just that we're not getting PSRs; it's that we're not getting pre-prepared detailed PSRs, which has had information from multi-agencies working with women, so that the magistrates can then have the information they need to be able to sentence the women.
Okay. Thank you for that. We'll now move on to some more detailed questioning on specific areas, starting with Sioned Williams.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Dwi'n gofyn y cwestiynau'n Gymraeg. Ydy'r cyfieithu'n gweithio'n iawn i bawb? Ie. Iawn? Andrea, ydych chi'n iawn?
Thank you, Chair. I'll be asking the questions in Welsh, so I hope the translation is working for everyone. Yes. Okay? Andrea, can you hear the translation?
I've just turned the globe on, yes—cool.
Iawn—jest eisiau tsiecio. Dwi eisiau gofyn cwestiynau mwy manwl ynglŷn â'r ganolfan breswyl i fenywod yn Abertawe, a chael eich barn chi ar y ddarpariaeth arfaethedig o ganolfan o'r fath. Pa werth ŷch chi'n rhoi ar y model yma fel dewis arall, amgen, yn hytrach na charcharu?
Okay—I just wanted to check. I wanted to ask more specific questions about the residential women's centre in Swansea, and to hear your views on the planned provision of such a centre. What value do you place on a model such as this one as an alternative to custodial prison sentences?
Andrea, I think you've been unmuted. Go ahead.
Sure. We are concerned about the proposal for a residential women's centre. We're concerned because it's an untried, untested sort of model, compared to the normal women's centre model without a residential requirement. It seems to us to be—. We're concerned that it's going to become a prison in all but name, and we're really unclear about how it would be distinct. We've been told by MOJ—the Justice Select Committee was told by the Ministry of Justice that it wouldn't operate like a prison, and yet, we know that it's going to be subject to the scrutiny of the Prisons and Probation Ombudsman, for example. We're concerned about how much it costs; £10 million is a significant amount for 50 women a year and 12 beds. So, we think it seems like an expensive gamble for something that may well be genuinely undermining of community solutions. So, we would obviously prefer to have women outside prison serving community sentences. We're unsure about how a residential component to a women's centre will really be very different from prison, and it's certainly going to be very expensive.
Oes rhywun arall yn moyn dod i mewn ar hynny? Ie—Emily.
Does anyone else want to come in on that? Yes—Emily.
I think Emily would like to come in at this point.
Is that me to come in?
Yes, go ahead.
Yes. Similarly to Andrea, we have some concerns. If the new centre is able to fulfil some of the unmet need of the lack of women's centre provision in south Wales, then that can be a good thing, but we have raised concerns continually as well that it can't become a prison in all but name. And, given that the centre is only intended to serve the women in the local community, we're unclear as to what the residential requirement is designed to achieve because the residential requirement disrupts home and family life and caring responsibilities in similar ways to a short prison sentence. So, we think the provision for the residential women's centre needs to be targeted where the residential aspect is positive. We're also concerned that it can't lead to any kind of uptariffing, so women who were already going to get community sentences should still be getting those community sentences; they shouldn't be given a stint in the residential women's centre. We've consistently raised concerns that it can't lead to the neglect of and the reduction of funding for existing centres because they need long-term, sustainable funding. And we have seen in the Government's response to the justice committee that they have assured us that this is not the case, but we will need to see that in reality because we know that, for the network of women's centres around the country, the funding is continually on a knife edge.
Felly, o'ch ateb chi fanna, mae'n ymddangos i fi fel bod y meini prawf ddim yn glir ar gyfer sut y byddai canolfan fel hyn yn gweithredu. Hynny yw, menywod o ble fyddai'n medru mynd yna? A fyddai'n rhywbeth lleol? A fyddai'n rhywbeth ar gyfer Cymru gyfan? A fyddai yna fenywod o dros y ffin yn dod i'r ganolfan? Ac, o dan ba amgylchiadau y bydden nhw'n cael eu hanfon i ganolfan fel hyn? Hyd yn oed o ran capasiti, ydy hwnna'n wir, bod y meini prawf yma ddim yn glir i chi, o ran eich dealltwriaeth chi?
So, from your responses there, it seems to me that the criteria isn't clear for how such a centre would work. Where would the women who are sent there be from? Would it be a local thing? Would it be Wales-wide? Would it be for women from across the border also? And, under what circumstances would these women be sent to such a centre? Even in terms of capacity, is that true, that that criteria isn't clear to you in terms of your understanding?
Sorry to interrupt there. My translation has stopped working.
So, I didn't catch any of that—sorry.
Okay. I'll repeat it in English. So, can someone help me with what meini prawf is in English? I can't think of the word—'criteria'. So, from your answer there, it seems to me that your understanding of the criteria isn't very clear, so we don't know how this would operate in terms of whether it would be women from just the Swansea region, or from the wider nation of Wales, or would there be women coming from across the border, and under what circumstances—sorry, I'm thinking in Welsh—this would be suitable for them. Is that true, that we don't have a clear picture of the criteria?
Anne, did you want to come in, because you've yet to speak on this issue?
Yes, thanks. It's fair to say that the absolutely clarity isn't there yet because we're still hearing about the five as an idea, I think, and the concept of these residential women centres. So, there are still conversations happening, and I think it's probably fair to say that it's rare that we would have so much engagement on something and still not be very clear, quite a long time on. It's a controversial proposal to have these, and we're not really sure what they're for. I think it's more controversial to have the Welsh one because it runs a massive risk to basically put a prison in all but name in Wales, where one has been resisted for years, where some people may feel that one is needed and it would be of benefit. And my concern is that if it becomes popular or well utilised, then there might be a case for more, when, actually, the case is already there for good community services, particularly if we think about, if women are going to go for a short period of time, it's generally a social need that drives that contact with the criminal justice system and that is best met near to home.
We're really worried about this residential component, for example, if it is women from Swansea. Why would you have to go and stay there, and at what cost? And is it going to be then certain types of women, because they'll only take single women? And is it actually going to meet everybody's needs? Or is it going to take women with children? There's still a lot there. I have an extra concern, because we represent the network of organisations in the voluntary sector, about the diversion of prioritised resources and money from existing services that need that. And how will you ensure, in any local area, that you've got the right organisations that women trust and women know and women need to work with? And I don't think that that's very clear.
Thank you. Does anybody else want to come in, just on that question of criteria?
Yes, if I could, Chair. Sorry.
Our understanding has been that it was meant to be for local women in Swansea. That was certainly how it was announced. But, as Anne says, what kind of women, what sorts of offences, we don't know. It's as an alternative to custody, and yet it has this residential requirement as part of a community sentence. As Emily said, there is this danger that community sentences then ramp up and start to have a residential element to them in a way that is completely untested. We don't do this. This is a theoretical thing and it's being tried in Swansea as the first place to do that. So, it's very, very concerning.
Okay. I've got two Members who, I think, want to come in. Sarah Murphy, did you want to ask a question? And then I'll come to Altaf Hussain.
Just on this. Obviously, I represent Bridgend, and some residential centres were initially proposed to be in Porthcawl and in Bridgend, and these were very much the questions that I asked at the time. So, they'd even got to a point, I feel—the UK Government—of proposing sites and they were still not really able to tell us how many units there would be. Doing some digging, I discovered that there would probably have been 12 units there. Two of them would have had facilities for babies as well. But, ultimately, what I couldn't get clarification on, and what I'm asking you is: at the end of the day, if the woman is going to be incarcerated, that is a prison, and that's what I couldn't really get clarity on, and is that the case with this one? If they're going to be locked up, they're going to be given a sentence; that is a prison, isn't it?
If you could indicate if you want to speak, but you don't all need to speak if whatever the previous witness has said you agree with. Anne.
Well, I think this is our concern. What is it? It's either a prison in all but name or an approved premises in all but name. So, if it's for women at the end of their sentences pre release, then why not just improve approved premises? Until somebody explains to us what it is about these things that is different and unique and needed, we really don't understand. They're either built around prisons or approved premises. So, I suppose that's the concern. Sorry if we seem confused, because I think we are, collectively, quite confused.
Jane Dodds. Sorry, I'll bring in Altaf Hussain first because he wanted to ask a question, and then I'll come to Jane Dodds.
All right, thank you, Chair. Now you used terms like that it was an 'expensive gamble', it was 'controversial', and that there are no clear answers. I was thinking that it would have been opened after some—. There ought to have been some evidence base somewhere in the world, and if there is not, it is really the Government's experiment, which they are not clear about, and we don't know who is dealing with it. There should be clear guidelines when introducing such types of rehab centres. Is there any evidence, anywhere in the world, where they have these rehab centres that we could adopt here as well?
So, briefly, has anybody got any idea, of any evidence of similar centres? Anne.
I think the issue is similar centres, so I'll park that for now. There is very strong evidence about women's centres, as mentioned in Baroness Corston's report—women's centres based in the local community, looking at the needs, providing holistic long-term voluntary and voluntarily entered into support. There is also evidence that women who need a residential option should have access, in that local community, to build up those community links. They might need move-on and transitional accommodation. There is also very good evidence around residential detoxification and rehab centres for women, including one run by the Nelson Trust, just at the other side of the English-Welsh border. I think the issue here is specifically around this kind of centre, because we're still not entirely sure what it would do. But there is very strong evidence about having good community-led, community-based services meeting the identified needs of women in contact with your local criminal justice system.
Okay. Jane Dodds, you wanted to come in.
Yes, thank you. We could spend a long time on this, because I think we've really heard a lot about it in the Senedd. I think one of the questions we had is: do you happen to know how many women's centres there are in Wales—how many we have in Wales? No. Okay. Thank you. That's all I wanted to ask, Chair. Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Okay, back to Sioned.
Okay, thanks. Just a little bit more information, although I think I might know the answer. Do we know anything about—? The centre in Swansea was supposed to be the pilot. Do we know anything else? Do we have any other information about the other four centres that were supposed to be part of this pilot? Do we have any information on those?
My understanding was that the Swansea centre was meant to be the kind of pilot-pilot, the groundbreaker. I think the others are even further delayed.
Okay. With just asking, then, about what advice—. Obviously, the local communities are going to have concerns about the location of a centre like this, so I was wondering what advice you would want to give, to both Welsh Government and local authorities, that would help to address those concerns, thinking about the level of opposition that there has been in the past.
I guess the point to make, potentially, would be that the centre is to serve the local community, so the women in the centre will already be from the local community, and to be realistic and clear about the kind of risk that these women represent. So, many of them will be on these really short sentences, most likely for low-level, non-violent crime and they will have multiple and complex needs, which the centre is there to help with. As far as we're aware, the centre isn't secure, because the women who will be sent there do not need security because they won't be on the more serious offences. Obviously, low-level offending does harm communities, but the point of these kinds of women's centres, wraparound support, is to deal with the issues surrounding offending behaviour and hopefully to reduce reoffending and reconviction rates. And we know that community sentences are much more successful in reducing reconviction rates than short-term prison sentences.
Anybody else want to come in? Anne.
I think one of the things is to maybe not get too hung up on the residential aspect of it, because that's often what people are concerned about, that something is going to be built where people are going to live. And also, as Emily said, to recognise that these will be women who are from and living in that community already, but maybe without the stability they need to live as positively within that community as they might.
In terms of other women's centres, I would definitely advocate engaging with the well-established women's centres, particularly the award-winning women's centre in north Wales, which exists within a community that has its challenges, but it's part of the fabric of that local community's offer to its women, and its women who have significant challenges in their lives. And I think when you're engaging with any local community, do that engagement with the support of the local voluntary sector, which will be thriving. And at least they're in an area where there are challenges that bring women into the criminal justice system.
Fine. Shall we move on, now, to questions from Sarah Murphy?
Thank you. Sorry, Chair, I just want to ask another question related to the previous part because, again, as I said, we went through this when they were proposed in Bridgend, and the concern of the local authority with it, and I imagine this is similar for Swansea, is that we already have Parc prison here. Every local authority gets the same amount of money to run the criminal justice service in their local authority; Bridgend and Swansea do not get more because we have prisons there. So, I think that there was a concern that there would not be extra money to be able to provide this. There were genuine concerns from the social services department, the health department and everything as well because of the pressures this would put on them. The housing department as well, as you've just pointed out—if people are going to want to stay there, maybe in the locality of where they've been, that puts pressure on the local authority to find housing afterwards. So, I was just wondering whether you're aware if any of these considerations have been discussed.
Also, the other thing I was going to ask is: the original plans, I believe, were meant to be that there would be a residential centre, but in conjunction with, like you said, a women's centre like the one in north Wales. So, the two would go hand in hand. The funding from UK Government should come down and it should be that there are both of those things hand in hand. And really, obviously, with the women's centre, it would be best if that came first. So, do you have any idea on those aspects of it? That may be a question for us to ask of the UK Government or the Welsh Government, I guess. Okay. No worries, I just thought I would raise those issues, though. Thank you very much.
Okay, I'm going to move on now, then, to custodial provision. The Prison Reform Trust said that 60 per cent of women who offend experience domestic abuse, so it would be good to get an understanding of whether independent domestic violence advisers are available to Welsh women who are in custody in England.
I'm not sure about that. I will happily go away and write to the committee with a response on that for you.
That would be wonderful. Thank you very much. Is anybody else aware of the support that women are getting in England if they've been sent from Wales? No. Okay.
That's okay. That's fine. Jane. You're muted, still.
I wasn't sure where to raise this, but it's about adverse childhood experiences and some of the practice around ACEs, and obviously it comes under all of the areas that we're looking at here, but obviously around custodial provision, and whether you know of any really good practice, good research, in relation to community non-custodial assessments using ACEs.
Adverse childhood experiences, for those who weren't aware.
Yes, adverse childhood experiences. Sorry. If nobody is indicating, then that's probably—. Oh, Anne. Go ahead.
Can I just ask, are you talking specifically about trauma-informed community provision? Because there are some good models of custodial provision for women who've experienced ACEs and need a trauma-informed approach.
Anything, really. But I'm particularly interested in whether there are any really good approaches using ACEs to avoid custodial provision, whether there are any good models internationally. I'm cheating slightly, because I did hear of one in New Zealand, where all the judges are trained in ACEs, and they actually take that into account when they're looking at options. But just hearing anything around trauma-informed or ACEs is really useful. Thank you.
I think there is a good body of evidence around what we call the problem-solving court models, which for all intents and purposes are very ACEs informed. I think it's probably worth noting that the only country in the UK that really talks this clearly about ACEs and public health drivers of criminogenic contact is Wales, and sometimes you need to kind of translate for yourselves what's going on in other areas, because the public health approach in Wales is definitely the strongest.
There absolutely is the model around problem solving, the idea that you understand that the person in front of your bench is a person who has probably experienced quite a lot of difficulty in their lives and is expressing the result of that difficulty, and that the only way then to help them into the future is to help them to address those root causes; that's at the centre. We've got quite a lot of stuff; I'm very happy to put some stuff together and write to the committee. It would probably take a lot of time to talk about the evidence now. But there is quite a strong evidence base for that problem-solving trauma-informed approach, including if that woman then goes to custody. What there isn't always is the joined-up approach of how best to get women into the right part of the system that will best meet their need.
Sorry, Chair, can I quickly ask just one last thing? Scotland have done a lot, haven't they, on ACEs and the criminal justice system. And so I just wonder, Chair, if we could think about looking at the Scottish model and evidence around the criminal justice system. Thank you.
Fine. I believe the Welsh translation system has been fixed now, just for those of you who like to speak in Welsh. Sarah, do you have any further questions?
Thank you, Chair. I'd like to ask some questions about support for pregnant women and those who have babies whilst they're in prison. From the written evidence, we can see that 600 pregnant women on average are held in prison each year, and although that might be small, the risks to these women and their babies are very real. Research has shown that, for example, out of 127 women, 11 per cent went into preterm labour and delivery, compared to 6.5 per cent in the general population. So, do you think there's action needed to support pregnant women and those who have babies whilst they're in prison? Who would like to go first? Andrea.
Undoubtedly. Our view is that the vast majority of pregnant women simply shouldn't be in prison at all, and that's something that judges need to be taking into account at sentencing. Prisons are not healthy environments for women who aren't pregnant, let alone for people who are going through all of the trials and stresses of pregnancy and childbirth, and then having early months in this provision.
Our view is very strongly that these women simply shouldn't be sentenced to custodial sentences in the first place. And for the very tiny minority of women who might be pregnant in prison, then we just need to make extra efforts to make sure there is proper provision for them. But we know that that's not the case. We've had two babies die in cells at Bronzefield in the last two and a half years; horrifying outcomes that should terrify us all, frankly.
It is a very good thing, in my view, that Wales doesn't have prisons to send pregnant women to. Obviously, there's the danger that Welsh women are sent to be pregnant in a prison in England, and the extra stresses that that will bring to them, being distant from family. But that's a different question.
Absolutely. Thank you very much. Emily or Anne, would you like to come in on this?
Just to echo what Andrea said there. I know that there has been some work to develop a new mother and baby unit policy framework from the MOJ and to better include data collection on the number of pregnant women in prison. But from what we've seen, I think it's quite different—the figures that you, Sarah, mentioned earlier are starkly different to the figures that the MOJ recently published on the numbers of pregnant women in prison and the number of babies born to women in prison. So, there is clearly still a disparity there and a lot of work to be done.
Thank you very much, and—
Before you move on, Sarah, do you think I can just ask a question about the mother and baby units? Has any evaluation work being done on the outcomes for the children of either being in a mother and baby unit until the child is 18 months old, or, alternatively, the child who is separated much earlier, depending on when the sentence took place, with the mother not being allowed to have the child in prison? Has anybody looked at what the outcome is for the child, whether it's beneficial for the child to be with the mother for the first two years? So, nobody's done this research, even though we've had these mother and baby units for years.
I'm not sure if that research has been done, but we'd be more than happy to talk to our members, to Birth Companions, who advocate for these kinds of models and understand them best, and get information to the committee if helpful.
Thank you. That would be great. Sarah, back to you.
Just to highlight from the written evidence, it is very alarming that the imprisonment of a household member has been linked now—so, there's a link between parental imprisonment and premature death for the child, which I think is incredibly alarming.
Just to come on to the mental health of women when they're in prison, in terms of reporting mental health issues, it's 71 per cent of women compared with 47 per cent of men, and 49 per cent of women are suffering with anxiety and depression in prison. Do you think that action is needed to meet the needs of these women who are mentally unwell when they're in custody? Anne, did you want to come in?
Absolutely, more needs to be done, I think, around the whole pathway for women, investing into services from liaison and diversion or early-intervention systems to, then, when in prison, understanding what women's needs are. I think what was really interesting to us in the conversations that have happened around future prison builds is that we know, and we're heartened to hear, that the physical design of any new prison—just to put on record, we think that any new prison should be new for old—will be more trauma informed. But we think that that will only work and only have the right outcome if the services, if the regime that is developed and provided to those women, is absolutely trauma informed and understands the impact of imprisonment on someone who is already unwell. In most cases, we know that people come out of prison having suffered harm from being imprisoned. These are women who are already unwell. Mental unwellness in women who are imprisoned often has a root cause in adverse childhood experiences and early trauma, so it's understanding that impact.
There are some useful models and things that have happened, and I think, definitely, the trauma-informed approach and that body of evidence—. Again, we can get information from our members, One Small Thing and other organisations that have worked very much around the trauma-informed workforce. And there's a lot of learning, as well, in Wales, from the youth justice system, the child-first approach and the way in which the workforce is being trained to work with people. I think that's definitely worth thinking about. But we really are always very concerned about Welsh women being sent to prison in another country when they are unwell, and, particularly, what is the integration plan for those women on release where the health service is different, where the support, the organisations that she's built up a relationship with won't be able to provide that service, because they're no longer in greater Manchester or Bristol. And that's for women that are only in Styal or Eastwood Park. We know that, sometimes, women will spend part of their sentence even further afield.
This is my last question, because you answered some of the question about support available afterwards. Can I just ask, when was this announced, this money from UK Government to do this, to actually have these? How long have you been working on this, any of you? How long have you been working on this plan to have a residential unit in Wales?
A couple of years.
Okay. Emily, do you know how far it goes back?
Just that it was originally announced in the 2018 strategy, so a long while.
I understand that, when it was announced in 2018, millions of pounds were allocated to this. My understanding is that this money has been set aside for what we've heard today is a social experiment on women in Wales. And that money, £10 million for Wales, is just sitting there and has been sitting there for four years, when what I'm hearing is that there are many, many areas where investment could be going in to actually help women in the criminal justice system in Wales and outside of Wales. Is that right, in your opinion?
Yes. Certainly, £10 million can go an awfully long way in support. For women in prison, £1 million will support 360 women a year for them in one non-residential women's centre, resulting in financial benefits of 2.75 times the benefits of the £1 million. So, yes, really substantial alternatives could be found with this money that would stand some chance, a known chance, of doing good for women.
Thank you, Andrea. Anne.
There's a significant challenge as well about the types of money that we can say we have access to. So, we've had issues for years about 5,000 additional prison places, and we're told that that has to happen because it's capital money and it's been allocated from a different budget. I think this was one of the real problems and probably an area of opportunity is how we've been able to get things working differently in Wales because it's different people's money and it's at a more localised level through devolved budgets and partners who are there with equal standing. This has been a real bugbear for us for years, that certain pots of money aren't equal, and there's money for something that we don't understand the evidence for it, and yet there isn't money for the stuff that we know the evidence for. There's undisputed evidence for community-based women's centres at the highest level of evidence threshold in the Ministry of Justice. And yet, despite—and we very much welcome—core funding and increased funding, it's not sufficient funding, and it never meets the same level of investment.
Thank you so much. Emily.
Emily, you want to come in, and then I'll bring in Jane Dodds.
It was just really quickly to say that Women in Prison published a report a couple of weeks ago on the cost benefits of women's centres, so it would be really worth looking at that if you haven't spotted it already.
Thank you very much, Emily. Jane Dodds.
Dyna beth roeddwn i eisiau gofyn. Roeddwn i eisiau gofyn am y dystiolaeth. Mae hynny'n wych, diolch yn fawr iawn. Roeddwn i eisiau jest gofyn am y dystiolaeth, ond mae Emily wedi dweud ei bod ar gael. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
That's what I wanted to ask, I wanted to ask about the evidence. That's great, thank you. I just wanted to ask about the evidence, but Emily has said that it is available. Thank you very much.
Very good. We'll now move on to focus a bit more on the needs of children. Altaf.
Thank you very much. This is about the impact of parental imprisonment on children. Do we know about any available research on the impact of parental imprisonment on children, and what does it tell us? Is enough being done to mitigate the impact on children in the UK and Wales?
There is a very strong body of evidence about the impact of parental imprisonment on children, including the impact of maternal imprisonment on children. I would refer the committee to the work of Lucy Baldwin and other colleagues, and also Shona Minson in relation to sentencing decisions. Because this comes back to the issues about pre-sentence reports and the information we have available at court on women.
One of the big challenges we often know is that we don't know enough about women when they come to the criminal justice system, and we don't know enough about their children and whether they have children. So, the number of children affected by parental imprisonment is not known, and there are a number of complex reasons sometimes for that, but if we don't know who these children are we can't support them, and it's a massive issue. One of our members, Children Heard and Seen, advocates on this issue all the time, that we don't know who these children are and we don't know, therefore, how to help them and find out what they need all the time. But there is very good research evidence about what this means. It is a known adverse childhood experience, and therefore there should be a good model of what to do. There are some really good models available and interventions—I'm very happy to put the committee in contact with organisations that run these. There's been some good work in Wales, mainly in the male estate, because the prisons are there: the Invisible Walls Wales work done in HMP Parc and the Visiting Mum project, which has been going for a number of years, keeping up those family ties.
I was the deputy chair of Lord Farmer's review into family ties in the male estate, and we also helped him, at Clinks, with his work on women and their families in the community and custody. There are some really interesting models, but one of the things is that they tend to be funded by the charitable sector. Sometimes there is statutory funding, but it's not mainstream funding, so the beneficiary of criminal justice funding is the person in the system and not their family. So, sometimes, what's needed is additional funding for family support to live with the impact of what's happening, and yet the criminal justice system just sees the person in prison or the person on probation as, I suppose, their person, and then the family is someone else's, and that's a massive issue, about how you do this for families and how you prevent some of the further harms that then pass on to children.
Just to say that my colleague Sarah Beresford has also written a report called 'What about me?', which focuses on the impact of maternal imprisonment, and, as Anne said, we're not completely sure on numbers. The estimate is that around 17,000 children a year are affected by maternal imprisonment. We do know that HMPPS have made changes to their basic custody screening tool when women enter prison to ask about primary care responsibilities et cetera, but that data is still not published, so we aren't any clearer. In terms of the Farmer review, I think we recently saw that 25 out of the 31 recommendations have been completed, the Government has said, but we don't have any breakdown or update on progress. We know there have been some really good measures as part of that, so the roll-out of in-cell telephony to the whole of the public women's closed estate, which was very positive, but some key deliverables, for example, the personal circumstances file, that Farmer recommended, are still under review.
Andrea? No, okay. Now, in a report published more than 10 years ago by the Social Care Institute for Excellence, there were references to a study in Sweden, comparing the effect of parental imprisonment on girls and boys in equal numbers—it was in the thousands really—which found that parental imprisonment in childhood was a strong predictor of adult criminal behaviour for both males and females, but more in females. Do we have any such study here in the UK or Wales, where we could assess the longer term impact on children, their education, their family ties, employment prospects, for example, or whether their experience leads to adult criminal behaviours?
Great. Okay. If we turn to examining interventions—
Hang on a minute, I think Emily wanted to come in. Go ahead.
Yes. Just to say, I don't know of any particular study, but I think, more and more, we're trying to move to be quite careful of the language that we use surrounding children and potential criminality, because we should be considering children in and of their own right and the effects on them, as opposed to seeing them as future offenders, as it were, because of the harmfulness of that.
I'd concur on that. I'd also say that there is a body of evidence from Children of Prisoners Europe—so, the COPING study by Ben Raikes and others at Huddersfield. It's the longer term impact, I think, where we don't have all of that, but we also need to be very careful about, I suppose, as Emily says, what we predicate as what we expect from children. But we often know that people who come into contact with the criminal justice system can have family experiences, but often can be criminalised because of the social issues in their family.
Great. If we turn to examining interventions that are focused on maintaining the links between mothers who are imprisoned and their children, are there any examples of best practice?
I referred earlier to the Visiting Mum service; this is well researched, well evidenced, developed in partnership with the voluntary sector, providing support to children in Wales to visit their mothers in HMP Eastwood Park, and keep up that contact. So, those were physical visits, and there is a body of evidence, again, around that to show some of the benefits and how you help children to maintain relationships and how you help mothers to maintain relationships.
I think there's still a dearth of flexibility around models, because what tends to happen is—this is what we do at Clinks—organisations will get funding to do a project in a prison with a particular group. We haven't yet got the flexibility to look at an individual child and their needs. So, within a family, for example, you may have three or four children of different ages, and we don't always have the flexibility within the funding to flex that provision and to provide what might be needed for individual children. So, I think we'd definitely advocate understanding what children need and taking that approach.
I think what will be really interesting with the development of future regimes, which His Majesty's Prison and Probation Service is looking at now in prisons, is looking at, when mothers are in prison, what they will need to maintain that relationship with their children themselves and do that more actively. There are some really interesting things about, for example, the use of video links to take part in children's parent-teacher meetings, to take part in care custody proceedings; if you're to have that relationship, to take part in contact with your children.
We rely too much on physical visits, and for children there is a lot of evidence, there is a lot of really good qualitative research, that talks about the impact of doing that on children. We need to have a much better way to marry up the needs of both the mother in prison, who often will have a need to mother, and yet a physical inability to do so, and the needs of her children.
Great, thank you; the Visiting Mum project, I didn't get really much—. If you have any outcomes from this project, I'd be grateful if you could kindly send me them. Now, there is some evidence that maternal imprisonment might be more harmful than paternal imprisonment for children, because the children are more likely to live with their mother before her imprisonment; children are less likely to be placed with their other parent when mothers are imprisoned and are more likely to be placed in foster care. Because imprisoned mothers are likely to be held further away from home than imprisoned fathers, the children may be less likely to visit their imprisoned mothers. Do we have any data in Wales to help us understand the different impacts?
Who'd like to go first? Andrea, do you want to—?
I'm afraid this is not something on which we've done any work.
Okay. Emily or Anne, are you able to contribute?
I think there is some information from the Invisible Walls work, but, again, that was with men, and there may be some within Visiting Mum. So, what I'd ask is if I can take the question away and talk to our membership in Wales, because I know that this stuff has been looked into, I just don't have it all to hand.
Okay, thank you for all that. If we could now move on to alternatives to custodial sentences, which Jane Dodds is going to lead on.
Yes, thank you very much. I think you’ve responded to quite a few of the issues, or we’ve discussed quite a few of the issues, that I was going to raise under this, but I suppose the big one for me is what you feel the Welsh Government can do to actually look at alternatives to custody. What’s your assessment of that, given that we do know that women experience more than men short sentences? Therefore, I just wondered, in the round, do you have any views on what the Welsh Government could do, anything more that they could be thinking about in order to prevent imprisonment? Who would like to go first? Emily. Thank you.
So, we know that 60 per cent of prison sentences given to women in Wales in 2021 were for less than six months, so, although there’s been a lot of work being done, there’s still that huge percentage of women who are on those really short prison sentences, and, as we’ve said, we need to look at community alternatives. So, we know that Ministry of Justice evidence shows that reconviction rates for prolific offenders are lower when agencies persist with the use of community sentences, rather than resorting to custody, and that that positive impact is even better for those with mental ill health, and we know that women will vastly have mental ill health and other complex issues. So, we need to—. One of the key things is building on this network of women’s centres and making sure that we have long-term sustainable funding for those centres so that sentencers feel confident in that provision, that it’s available.
Thank you. Can I just ask about the mechanics of it? So, what needs to happen to stop women getting custodial sentences? I suppose that’s what I’m really interested in. You mentioned pre-sentence reports, and that they don’t seem to be available for all women, but what else needs to happen in practice? Is it education of the judiciary, is it that there’s more multi-agency working, so we get those women diverted to the women’s centres? Thank you. Anne.
But who gets to have those services? So, to my mind it’s to ensure that there is, for a start, a preventative attitude within the system, so that we have a presumption towards diversion, similar to where the whole-system approach has come from. So, the women’s pathfinder, done under the integrated defender management Cymru programme, looking at particularly, for those lower level offences, for the things women can be sent to prison a long way from home for a short period of time for very damaging effect, to presume that actually we will deal with this woman out of court wherever possible in a way that, if she is able to engage positively with services, that—. There are models coming along even more now that will allow that to happen—so, a community sentence treatment requirement, if that’s what you need, or diversion away completely, not giving a criminal record or conviction but providing support. I think that's actually where Welsh Government has a real role to play, bearing in mind that the majority of the driving factors for these women's contact with the criminal justice system are based on social and public health outcomes, where devolution gives you that power.
So, what we would say is really resource those services that have that contact with the criminal justice system. So, for example, I’ll again refer to the award-winning work of the North Wales Women's Centre. That's a service that is there for those women, and every agency uses it, but it is rarely core funded. I rarely have a year where the brilliant woman that runs it tells me she has enough and she knows it’s going to be there into the future, and yet everybody visits and everybody has these wonderful things to say. But actually making sure—. If you know that you’ve got a population where women can end up in the criminal justice system—. I think that’s the thing; it's, I think, that people don’t go directly to the criminal justice system—they end up in it. Other services don’t meet their needs, other services aren’t good enough, other services weren’t there when they needed them, they didn’t feel they could use those services—whatever it is. We know quite a lot about those women. Emily and her colleagues in the Prison Reform Trust have done brilliant work in Wales to tell us, with that lottery-funded work that they’ve done over many years, what it is that women end up in the system with, so it’s about having those services there at those points of intervention that have failed in the past.
That’s really interesting, thank you. I don’t know if, Emily or Andrea, you wanted to add to that. Thank you.
I was going to add that there’s real work that needs to be done with sentencers still. So, sentencers just don’t understand the evidence base as you or I would think they should. There's a fantastic report that came out a couple of weeks ago from the Sentencing Council called 'The Effectiveness of Sentencing Options on Reoffending', so, a report commissioned by the Sentencing Council by Jay Gormley, Melissa Hamilton and Ian Belton. But it's for England, and Wales doesn't have specific Welsh content, but it does generally talk about the strong evidence base for short custodial sentences of less than 12 months being far less effective than suspended sentences and community sentences. There's a whole section on women, showing that women are less likely to offend if they're formally cautioned versus if they get a custodial sentence, where they're 52 per cent more likely to reoffend, and then goes into the factors for desistance and all of these sorts of things. Unfortunately—and I come back from a background where I used to be the director of JUSTICE, where I spent a lot of time with judges—judges don't know. They don't have a solid enough understanding of what leads to desistance, how prison works, the impact it has, and I think more needs to be done to draw out for them the evidence base and then help them understand that the decisions they're taking in an individual case actually end up having follow-on consequences for whole communities, and the danger and damage that that causes.
Thank you. That's really interesting, and, Emily, to finish off there.
Thanks. Just to quickly add that we have been working on our local area data, which looks at women's imprisonment in each individual police force area across the whole of England and Wales, and we're waiting on some data to be published for that. But we hope to be publishing that soon, and I'm happy to send that to the committee once we have it.
That would be very, very interesting. Just following on, really, with one last question, I promise, Chair. On the issue around police, then, is there more to be done there, around working with and raising awareness of the police around diversion options? Just a quick comment—sorry, we're running out of time—. A quick comment, anybody. Anne, please, again.
I think it's really important that we learn what's happening in the four PCC areas with the Checkpoint and the whole-systems approach areas with the policing aspect of that, so that policing education in terms of both training and future development is learnt. I think the participation of the PCC offices in all of this work has been brilliant, and to make sure that we are learning that with the blueprint—what's the learning for police, what's the longer-term learning from these investments. That would be really important, I think, particularly because we have a difference in north Wales and Dyfed-Powys to south Wales and Gwent. So, it would be really important for us to really understand what's the difference for women, and what made the difference in terms of those policing interventions.
Thank you. Thank you, Chair. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Okay. Could I just clarify are you talking about the women's pathfinder whole-systems approach there in Gwent and south Wales?
I am, yes. And then there's the Checkpoint model in the north and Dyfed-Powys.
Fantastic—really good to know that. Okay. And what about this out-of-court disposal, giving police the ability to deal with low-level offending without recourse to the courts? Is that something that's actually happening, or is it just an idea that's been thrown up in the air and not actually followed through?
It is happening. It's happening in different areas. If you want specifics on where, I'm sure we can find that or direct you to it. Again, it's an understood programme of how these models can work. There was some investment—I think it's quite a few years since I had a series of meetings around this. In certain police areas across England and Wales, there are different investments. I suppose this is one of the issues that we always face from localism, isn't it, where things will happen in certain areas and we don't always get the learning. But, out-of-court disposals are used, particularly for lower levels of offences in certain areas.
Yes, good practice doesn't often travel very easily. I know that Ken Skates is aware of this—over to you, Ken.
Thanks, Chair. I'm conscious of the time—I'm just going to ask a couple of questions, and one concerns best practice. Before we get to that, though, can you just outline your thoughts on the progress that's been made since the Corston report back in 2007, and highlight any particular areas contained within the report that you think really do deserve to be given some priority? Anne. Thank you.
For me, it's about women's centres, and Baroness Corston was very clear about women's centres and what works and what should work, and I think what's happened since then is we haven't had enough speed and enough, maybe, political will right across the models of really putting those into place. Different variations on the theme have been talked about, and there has been some investment in the existing women's centres, but we don't yet have that Corston vision of a woman's centre, available for every woman who needs it, with a holistic model of support to build on, and that would certainly be Clinks's view.
Okay, thank you. And then, turning to best practice, do you think policy makers are sufficiently aware of best practice from within the UK or abroad? Do you think policy makers are willing to learn lessons from elsewhere, and are there centres that you're aware of that could act as a template for the purpose of reducing reoffending? Would you like to try for that one, Anne, or Andrea?
I'm more than happy to. I think we're in an interesting time post pandemic as well—we're thinking about people getting out and about and learning from one another. I think the criminal justice system has been, like many other services, in crisis, and it's definitely time to learn now. Pre pandemic, there was some very interesting work happening not too far away, in Scotland, and I know there was a delegation that went from the women in justice in Wales board to visit that service, and it would be important to learn what's happening, particularly where the demographic needs are the same. So, we might be able to learn from other jurisdictions what happens well in residential drug rehab and what happens well with women with mental health difficulties getting support in their local community. I'd say again the contact with the criminal justice system is almost by-the-by a lot of the time, because it's where a woman ends up, rather than the primary focus—it's about women who live in high levels of poverty and deprivation. So, I think there's probably quite a lot we can learn about what happens in different types of care, and I think there are probably some of your colleagues in Welsh Government working so hard around public health—that public health model of care teaches us a lot that we can bring into criminal justice.
Great. Thanks, Anne. And, Chair, finally from me, just an open invitation, actually, for any of the guests today to highlight their priorities and any recommendations that they would make to us that they haven't yet made today.
One thing that hasn't been raised that's of concern to us—. We have an advice line for children and young people in custody across the country, and that includes girls in custody, in youth custody, and there was a joint inspectorate report, a thematic report, earlier this year. There were only 14 children in young offender institutions at the time of the inspection report. But the outcomes for the girls were extremely poor, and I think girls in custody are something like 12 times more likely to self-harm than boys in custody. But the reason I raise it is that, earlier this year, we did have a girl call us who was Welsh, who was in Wetherby, in the Keppel unit, which is a unit inside a boy's prison. It's a prison that is not serving the boys well and, at this time, still has girls in it, which we are very concerned about as a precedent and as a matter of principle. I know it's something that the previous prisons Minister, Victoria Atkins, was very concerned about but couldn't find a way through that. She's waiting for the new secure children's home to be set up in Medway. But I think something just to keep thought of is girls in custody, and Welsh girls, because Wetherby is a long way from Wales. I mean, that's the other side of Leeds, I think; my geography is not fantastic. It's a very small number of girls, but very vulnerable, obviously, and, again, they just really shouldn't be in prison.
Okay. Thank you.
Just finally from me, just going back to the whole business about residential women's centres as being the main focus, it would appear, of the Welsh Government's joint working with the Ministry of Justice, I suppose the question for me—. I absolutely hear what you're saying, that we need grass-roots women's centres across Wales that will enable people to not fall foul of the criminal justice system. Prevention is always better than cure. But how do you deal with those women who consistently reoffend? You need some sort of stick, if you like, as well as a carrot, to get people to engage if you want to divert people away from custodial sentences, which the recidivism rates would tell you are completely—. We have a failing system on this front; we spend loads of money, but the outcomes are terrible. So, I just wanted to probe that a little bit further. I understand that you want to have these grass-roots women's centres, but there will always be some women who are being bullied at home or they're just feeling not strong enough to deal with their addiction problems, for example—how would you actually get them to engage?
I think it's interesting, Chair, because I think that all that's really consistently available are stick approaches; all that's available right across the country to magistrates, to courts, is custody, and we know that women are sent to prison as a place of safety. We know that that happens. We're hopeful that legislation is actually coming on the books now that won't particularly allow mentally ill women to be held in prison while we wait for beds for them and for women to be sent to prisons as places of safety. I think we haven't explored the carrots enough in terms of what are the alternatives that we can do—that it doesn't look like a soft option, but sending women to prison just pushes the problem further down the line. They are out of the community, out of sight, out of mind—not out of the minds of their children—and then they come back not having been rehabilitated, not having had the things that they need. Prison is not the place for many of these women. It's not effective, it's not cost-effective, it doesn't generally work on any ideological paradigm. Nobody feels well served by these things. So, recidivism rates are high for women who are sent to prison. They are high for people who get this stick right now, so I think I'd like us to plant some carrots.
Thank you for that. Do either of you, Andrea or Emily, want to say anything further on that?
Just to agree with everything Anne said—planting carrots. I mean, I think the irony of it all is that the thing we know will result in reoffence is a period in custody, and that's what we keep on defaulting to. So, we keep on defaulting to the thing that we know is going to result in reoffence. So, we need to try something different, to engage women, to address the causes of their offending in the first place, to provide them with support, and the women's centres model does a lot of that support.
So, the problem is, then, that it's 15 years since the Corston report, and politicians, both Labour and Conservative, have simply been too timid. Would you agree? They just haven't wanted to bother to deal with this.
There's a lack—
I think it's—
Sorry, Anne. From our point of view, there's a lack of political leadership, there's too much short-termism, there's not a willingness to invest in the things that we know are going to work in the medium to long terms, so then it defaults to custody. There really needs to be political consistency, though, and we've had such a turnover of people in the Ministry of Justice over the last five years—I don't need to tell people on this committee—that it's very hard to get anybody who's well-equipped and understands the issues and then can pursue principled policy, because they leave far too quickly.
But, on paper, these things are still pretty valid. Corston's recommendations are still valid; they could still be implemented. The women's strategy is there and could be implemented—the blueprint is still there. It takes, I think, a concerted effort from everybody, and I think that that would be the order of the day.
Thank you. Sioned, you put your hand up first, and then I'll come to Jane Dodds.
Thanks, Chair. I just wanted to ask, we're talking, obviously, about things that need to be done in the here and now, but given the years that we've talked about, where progress hasn't been made, although reports like the Corston report seem to have given and will give us a way forward—. You probably know about the Thomas commission and the recommendations about the devolution of justice. Given that we know the attitudes of the current Welsh Government, would it be, therefore, easier to truly integrate a system of community alternatives, aligned with areas like education and health and housing, which are, of course, devolved, if we did devolve powers over this?
Anne, did you want to go first?
Yes. I'm not sure—. I gave evidence to Lord Justice Thomas's commission, and I think we welcomed the in-depth look at it and the recognition of where devolution has already helped in relation to justice and justice-involved people, and I think I referred to that myself earlier. I think, whether it would be easier is a bit of a challenge, because any period of transition would be really challenging and it would be very difficult to know how much it would cost because we're not really sure how much Welsh justice costs Westminster now. At the moment, for example, when I used to sit on what was then the advisory board for female offenders, there was a piece of work done on the cost of not sending women to prison. And, of course, it was really difficult to know in Wales because it would cost money to provide services for women, because, at the moment, they are shipped away, and the cost, for want of a better word, isn't there. So, I think, there would need to be quite a lot of work to understand what investment would be needed in Wales and within Wales and by Welsh Government in having the right kind of criminal justice service. But I think it absolutely merits thinking about what does Welsh justice look like. And in the meantime, if there is to be devolution or not, I think there's still a real need to keep up the partnership working and give it everything that you can, because so many of the future indicators of what really works, particularly for women and girls, is in the stuff that is already devolved to you. It's around the investment in health, the investment in ACEs—all of that. You can see now the impact of those positive things that have happened, and that's what I would advocate.
Okay. Before I come Jane Dodds, Andrea and Emily, did you want to add anything to Sioned's question? No need to; if you agree with what Anne says, that's fine. Okay, Jane Dodds.
It's an interesting follow on from what Sioned's saying. It might be that you don't want to add to this, but I was going to ask you—. It's been fascinating, and you are clearly such experts, in terms of the criminal justice system in general and particularly for women, and girls as well—I think that's a really good point, Andrea. So, we have some powers here in Wales, and Sioned's talked about looking at devolving criminal justice, but within our powers, if you had one thing that you could say to this committee that, in your experience, could make a difference, what would it be? So, like the magic-wand experience, really. In Wales, what could we do? One thing for women in the criminal justice system or to prevent them being in the criminal justice system. You don't have to answer, but I'm just really interested.
Right. Emily, do you want to go first?
Take the money that you would imagine you would spend on criminal justice, on custody, or on those things and put it to things that aren't criminal justice—to mental health bids and drug support and family services support—and stop the crime before it happens. And a lot of those things are within your devolved powers. The answers to problems in the criminal justice system do not lie in the criminal justice system; they lie outside the criminal justice system. So, invest in those things beforehand and people never enter the criminal justice gateway.
I think 'powers' is a brilliant word. I think you actually have a lot of power, as Andrea said, about going down stream to where women first fall in. What we talk about a lot of the time is we use the metaphor of a river and a current, that oftentimes the women and girls who come into this system don't know how to swim. They haven't got that strength. So, I think you've got that power to go down stream to invest in not only good models, but I think what we really need, particularly in Wales, where we know that we've got rural and urban disparities, and we've got issues about traditional communities not having what they need, we need to make sure that regardless of where she happens to live that she has access to what she needs.
Thank you. Altaf, you wanted to—. Sorry, Emily. Before I come back to you, Altaf, Emily wanted to add something.
Yes, sorry. Just to echo everything that Andrea and Anne said there—just keep the focus on that early intervention and diversion and really, really reduce that number of women who are sentenced to the short-term, really harmful prison sentences.
Thank you, Chair. There was a study in Scotland in 2018, which came out with a range of points worthy for consideration, really, in Wales as well. Do you know about that? Could we use any of those recommendations that they have come up with?
Sorry, I'm not quite sure what study you're referring to there.
It was a study on the impact of parental imprisonment and other areas of women's prisons and imprisonment. I think it was 2018, if I am right.
Okay. Well, perhaps we can write to you if it doesn't immediately spring to mind.
Thank you very much indeed for the evidence you've provided. It's really useful for our prison visits in a couple of weeks' time, when we'll be going to the two main prisons were women are sent from Wales. We'll be sending you a transcript of your evidence, and please just take the time to ensure that we've captured your evidence accurately. And thank you very much indeed for all your work for women. Hopefully you'll find our report interesting in due course. Thank you.
Thanks very much.
Diolch yn fawr.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Very good. I wonder if Members could agree that, under Standing Order 17.42, we now move into private session for the remainder of the meeting. I see no objections.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 14:52.
The public part of the meeting ended at 14:52.