Emotion, Time, and the Voice of Women Affected by the Criminal Justice Process: Corston and the Female Offender Strategy

Published 23/01/2019
Type Article
Author(s) Beverley Gilbert, Kristy O’Dowd
Corresponding Authors

In 2007 Baroness Corston articulated a vision of creating a ‘distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, woman-centred, integrated approach’ with women in the criminal justice system (Corston, 2007:79). These sentiments are echoed within the Government’s Female Offender Strategy (Ministry of Justice, 2018). This article argues that the core messages from these documents have not been implemented. It argues that criminal justice processes are reducing the opportunity to work within the women’s timeframes in order to enable them to make long-term changes in lifestyle and to develop their personal capacities. The spectrum of presenting needs of women involved in crime is broad. Therefore, the focus of this paper is on the impact of domestic abuse on women, drawing on the voice of a survivor and her criminality, which occurred as a result of abuse and the attempt to escape a violent and coercively controlling partner. Using an autographical account, it is argued that limitations on time can significantly hinder individual progress, recovery and reintegration, given the experience of trauma and emotional suffering. Agency practitioners have to take time to hear women’s emotional needs, so women feel that their voices are heard in order to be connected with the process of rehabilitation. This article argues that the recommendations from the Corston report have not been implemented and that significant organisational change is necessary to assist women with multiple and complex needs to navigate a positive, non-offending lifestyle.