Resettlement and the case for women

AuthorLoraine Gelsthorpe,Jane Dominey
Published date01 December 2020
Date01 December 2020
Subject MatterArticles
Resettlement and
the case for women
Jane Dominey and
Loraine Gelsthorpe
University of Cambridge, UK
This article is about women caught in the cycle of persistent offending, breach and
recall. We consider the resettlement challenges faced by this group of women and the
extent to which these challenges can be met by the criminal justice system. We reflect on
the impact of the Offender Rehabilitation Act 2014 and of statutory post-sentence
supervision on the speed of the revolving door between custody and the community.
The article draws on some data from an ongoing evaluation of a supported accom-
modation project for women leaving prison to illustrate its argument. We also question
the extent to which the probation service alone has the tools needed to reduce the
likelihood of recall and return to prison and identify the importance of factors such as
sentencing law and policy and the provision of housing and health services.
women, resettlement and accommodation, recall, sentencing law and policy, housing
and health services, probation
As discussed elsewhere in this special edition, the Offender Rehabilitation Act (ORA)
2014 brought statutory post-release supervision to everyone leaving prison. Before
this change, only those serving sentences of more than 12 months were subject to
licence on release; ORA 2014 extended this requirement to those with short sentences
and created post-sentence supervision (PSS) to ensure that everyone leaving prison
would be subject to probation supervision for a period of at least 12 months (and,
Corresponding Author:
Jane Dominey, Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge, Sidgwick Avenue, Cambridge CB3 9DT,
Probation Journal
2020, Vol. 67(4) 393–409
ªThe Author(s) 2020
Article reuse guidelines:
DOI: 10.1177/0264550520939154
The Journal of Community and Criminal Justice
therefore, often beyond the end-date of the prison sentence). This change was argued
on the grounds that it would offer rehabilitative support to individuals with complex
needs and a high likelihood of reoffending (Ministry of Justice, 2013). Failing to
comply with the requirements of PSS (such as keeping in touch with the supervisor and
notifying changes of address) would be dealt with through breach proceedings at the
magistrates’ court with, in the event of the breach being proven, sanctions including a
return to prison for up to 14 days, a fine, hours of unpaid work or a period of curfew.
Voices within the probation service responded to the proposal to introduce PSS with a
cautious welcome of the offer of additional post-release support but scepticism about
the extent to which this work would be funded (Probation Association, 2014). Other
critics pointed to the increase in supervisory control represented by PSS (Cracknell,
2018) and its disproportionate nature, with relatively longer periods of supervision
imposed on those serving the shortest custodial sentences (Padfield, 2016). This
article explores the position of women caught in the cycle ofpersistent offending, short
prison sentences, post-custody supervision and breach, drawing on data from an
evaluation of a supported accommodation project for women leaving prison to shed
light on the complexities of resettlement.
These changes to statutory post-custody supervision have brought a predictable
increase in the use of recall to custody. The probation service has faced criticism for
being too quick to resort to enforcement proceedings and insufficiently flexible when
faced with minor instances of technical non-compliance (Robinson, 2014; Robinson
and McNeill, 2008). Despite policy developments intended to encourage and sus-
tain compliance (Ministry of Justice, 2015), in the year to June 2019 almost 9000
people serving a short prison sentence were returned to prison (Prison Reform Trust,
2019). In response to concern (expressed by politicians and sentencers) about the
enforcement and recall practice of the probation service, HM Inspectorate of Pro-
bation (HMIP) undertook an inspection of this area of practice. The picture was
mixed; in general terms, decisions about the recall of longer-sentenced prisoners
were of better quality than those made about short-sentenced prisoners (HMIP,
2018). The inspectors identified the challenge of building relationships with and
providing adequate services for individuals with complex needs. In these cases
enforcement had the effect of compounding rather than lessening the sense of a
revolving door between prison and the community’ (HMIP, 2018: 9).
The provisions of ORA 2014 were implemented at the same time as the Trans-
forming Rehabilitation (TR) reforms which abolished the existing probation trusts
replacing them with a new public sector National Probation Service and 21 regional
Community Rehabilitation Companies (CRCs) to be sold (through a process of
competitive tendering) to new providers (Canton and Dominey, 2018; Ministry of
Justice, 2013). The CRCs assumed responsibility for (among other work) the super-
vision of all those people assessed as posing a low or medium risk of causing serious
harm and the delivery of ‘through the gate’ (TTG) services intended to support the
process of leaving prison and returning to the community (Millings et al., 2019).
The TTG services that were established following TR drew on a range of existing
practices and partnerships. They were frequently delivered, as part of a contract with
the CRC, by voluntary sector organisations. Evidence from both independent
394 Probation Journal 67(4)

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT