Women Exiting Prison: Supporting Reintegration in a Changing Penal Climate

Published 13/03/2002
Type Article
Author(s) Mark Oldfield
Corresponding Authors Mark Oldfield, Kent Probation Area and University of Hertfordshire

The rise in the number of women caught up in the criminal justice system draws attention to what distinct and distinctive strategies are needed to divert women away from the courts and support them to address the risk factors that propel them into offending. This paper discusses how Corrections Victoria in Australia identified particular risk factors that propel women into offending and developed a specialised response to women offenders, with particular emphasis on supporting their re-integration into the community. The Better Pathways Strategy developed in 2005 by Corrections Victoria identifyied the key importance of housing, employment and family connections to successful reintegation of women offenders into the commmunity. Participation in offender based programmes as well as intervention in physical and mental health concerns, and in alcohol and other drug use problems also influenced women’s self efficacy and thus confidence in their community reintegration. However gender based programmes and diversion responses for women offenders are increasingly being challenged by the rise of the risk paradigm, where surveillance and monitoring draw draws resources away from therapeutic and community based responses. Women are particularly affected given the nature of their social problems brings contact with criminal justice: intellectual disability, mental health, dual diagnosis, drug and alcohol related behaviour problems and homelessness, all of which are classified as high risk. Yet where ‘joined-up’ services have been implemented, they have successfully facilitated transition from prison to community, and reduced re-offending. However, constrained budgets and community disfavour challenge the successful partnerships developed and policy attention which have positively supported this group of marginalised and vulnerable women.