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Friday 20 April 2018
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Responding to the Needs of Girls and Young Women in the Penal System


Tuesday 11th December 2012, 10.00am – 4:30pm
Central London

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Recent research highlights that women and girls tend to be convicted for less serious offences than men, with 44% of women jailed for theft and handling offences compared to 28% of men. Too many women are sent to prison unnecessarily for short sentences and on remand and although they make up a small percentage of the prison population, they represent some of the most vulnerable. Prison is disproportionately harsher for women because prisons and the practices within them have, arguably, for the most part been designed for men. Statistics suggest that girls accounted for just 5% of the young people held in custody in 2010-11 and whilst girls are far less likely than boys to end up in the penal system, when they do their needs are often ignored or overlooked.

Over half the young women in prison have previously been in care and a quarter have children of their own. Mental health problems are far more prevalent among women in prison than in the male prison population or in the general population. Girls in custody are more likely to be restrained, more likely to self-harm and more likely than boys to be placed in segregation. There is a lack of understanding about the needs of girls who end up in the criminal justice system, each differing depending on their age, maturity and life experiences.

As part of a year-long inquiry, the APPG on Women in the Penal System found that the number of girls arrested each year has been falling since 2008, however, once a girl has been arrested, they are more likely to be drawn into the penal system, leading to detrimental long term consequences. The findings of the inquiry, published in two briefing papers this year; “Keeping Girls Out of the Penal System” and “Inquiry on Girls: From Courts to Custody” outline the need for restorative policing where officers can exercise professional discretion and resolve matters informally and immediately. Furthermore, the inquiry highlighted concerns that magistrates are confusing welfare needs with high risk of reoffending and as such are increasing the severity of the sentence.

This special symposium provides an invaluable opportunity for local authorities, criminal justice and legal practitioners, police and probation services and welfare services to gain an insight into women and girls in the penal system and discuss what more needs to be done to improve outcomes for vulnerable girls. The symposium will address the underlying issues including neglect, abuse, mental health issues and poverty and assess the importance of gender-specific services in every community to prevent offending.

Delegates will:
•Discuss the progress made in implementing the recent APPG recommendations on women in the penal system
•Examine how the current challenges of girls in the criminal justice system can be met and the effect of reform in the sector
•Explore the responses of magistrates, police and welfare services in ensuring the needs of vulnerable girls are distinguished from the risk of offending




09:30  Registration and Morning Refreshments


10:15  Chair’s Welcome and Introduction


10:30  Panel Session One: Preventing Girls from Entering the Penal System – Building on Proposals and Recommendations

  • The National Picture – Progress Made in Implementing the Recommendations Outlined in the Corston Report and the Findings of the Recent Inquiry

  • Meeting the Current Challenges of Women and Girls in the Criminal Justice System and the Impact of Reform in this Sector

  • Keeping Girls Out of the System – Raising the Age of Criminal Responsibility to 14 Years and Considering Custody as a Last Resort

  • Allowing Officers to Exercise Professional Discretion and Resolving Matters Informally and Immediately Through the Promotion of Restorative Policing


11:15  Morning Coffee Break


11:30  Open Floor Discussion and Debate with Panel One


12:30  Networking Lunch


13:30  Panel Session Two: Addressing the Needs of Vulnerable Girls and Young Women – Improving Local Responses

  • Providing Training for Professionals and Magistrates in Dealing with Vulnerable Girls and Raising Awareness of the Specific Needs of Girls in the Penal System

  • Developing Gender-Specific Services for Girls Once Sentenced and Providing Support to Assist their Transition From Courts to Custody

  • Ensuring Local Authorities are Aware of the Different Needs of Girls Including Neglect, Abuse and Poverty and Have Sufficient Resources in Place to Respond

  • Preventing Discrimination Against Girls and Distinguishing Between Welfare Needs and High Risk of Re-Offending and Sharing Best Practice


14:15  Afternoon Coffee Break


14:30  Open Floor Discussion and Debate with Panel Two


15:30  Chair’s Summary and Closing Comments


15:40  Networking Reception


16:30  Close


Who Should Attend?

  • Police Service and Police Authorities

  • Probation Officers

  • Judges and Magistrates

  • Crown Prosecution Service

  • Criminal Justice Practitioners

  • Courts and Tribunal Service

  • Appeals Courts

  • Crime and Disorder Reduction Partnerships

  • Local Authority Officers and Councillors

  • Central Government and Agencies

  • Local Criminal Justice Boards

  • Prison and Probation Services

  • Regulatory Bodies and Electoral Commission

  • Neighbourhood Policing Teams

  • Social Workers and Social Services Officers

  • Women’s Centres

  • Refuge Organisations

  • Domestic Violence Co-ordinators

  • Safeguarding Adults Teams

  • Local Safeguarding Children Boards

  • Children and Young People Services

  • Family Services Officers

  • Family Protection Units

  • Health Service Professionals

  • Anti-Social Behaviour Coordinators

  • Youth Offending Teams

  • Youth Justice Boards

  • Offender Management Services

  • Legal Advisers and Solicitors

  • Legal Professionals

  • Fraud Prevention Teams

  • Community Safety Teams

  • Community Support Officers

  • Community Cohesion Officers

  • Community Engagement Officers

  • Community Relations Advisers

  • Revenue and Customs Prosecutions Teams

  • Hate Crime Units

  • Neighbourhood Renewal Teams

  • Social Inclusion Officers

  • Policy Officers

  • Equal Opportunities Officers

  • Equality, Diversity and Human Rights Practitioners

  • Faith Organisations

  • Local Voluntary and Community Organisations

  • Third Sector Practitioners

  • Trade Union Representatives

  • Academics, Analysts and Researchers