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The need for Women’s Support and Our Own Stories

A recent article in The Guardian states that we need to offer women support instead of prison, a viewpoint that Safe Ground is very much on board with. The article entitled ‘Police ‘need to offer female offenders support not prison’’ is based on a London assembly report that stated women’s crimes are often linked to poverty or mental health problems. The Guardian article notes that the Metropolitan Police are starting a new scheme to give women access to services for their complex needs rather than entering the criminal justice system.

A recent report by NPC states that 46% of women admitted to having attempted suicide before going into custody and 57% of women experienced domestic abuse before custody, demonstrating the myriad of issues many women have which may lead them in the direction of the criminal justice system. As stated in the recent NPC report, there is a lack of services both in prison and out of prison for vulnerable women, this often means that women are unsure of what to do and where to go after release from prison. For example, 60% of women do not have homes to go back to when released and as well as this, the average distance a woman in prison is from her home is 66 miles. The substantial distance likely means there will be a negative effect on her family relationships, adding more trauma to her prison experience. Not only do women suffer because they are distanced from their families, their children also suffer tremendously as they are often losing their primary caregiver.

At Safe Ground we have a women’s programme called Our Own Stories. It is a creative personal development programme, which helps women learn from and prepare for moments of transition and transformation in their lives. Our Own Stories aims to help women cope with the situation that they are in and empowers them to confidently approach difficult situations. As the NPC report notes; ‘Prison itself is traumatic and infantilising, rather than the empowering environment women often need.’ Our Own Stories achieves its objectives through drama, therapeutic techniques, games, and discussion. The programme is currently being delivered in the community, with the aims to help women manage their emotions and develop an understanding and knowledge of relationships. Our Own Stories has received great feedback, as one participant states ‘I never imagined I’d stand up and perform in front of other women. Thank you for showing me I can.’

Written by Olivia Penn

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