At the end of last year, the Nelson Trust opened a Women’s Centre in HMP Eastwood Park, an innovative new pilot funded by the Ministry of Justice ‘Local Leadership and Integration Fund’ aimed at improving outcomes for prison leavers.
The Nelson Trust states that: ‘It is widely acknowledged that women are often swept up into the criminal justice system as a consequence of disadvantage including poverty, homelessness and substance misuse. The majority of women in prison have histories of trauma, abuse, and victimisation, with at least 60% of women being the victims of domestic abuse. Half of women in prison are mothers; leaving children the hidden victims of separation, family breakup and loss of the family home. This can have a devastating long-term impact on children leading to intergenerational cycles of trauma, abuse and offending.’
The Nelson Trust established the ‘ONE Women’s Centre’ in HMP Eastwood Park to support women returning to South West England and Wales. With no women’s prisons in Wales, Welsh women are imprisoned in England, over 100 miles away from their homes, making family visits and effective resettlement almost impossible.
Bishop Rachel said, “At a time when numbers of those in prison are rising and much criminal justice policy seems to be driven by media headlines, it was a delight to be present for the opening of the ONE Women’s Centre. The belief that we will all be safer if more people are locked away and for longer is prevalent in society, but this centre has a very different ethos.
“The centre’s holistic approach is evidence-based and seeks to foster engagement with each woman and the landscape of her story which lies behind the offending. Furthermore, there is partnership-working at the heart of it.
“However, as with women’s centres in the community, this provision needs secure and long-term funding, and we need to continually challenge the focus of criminal justice funding. I hope that the Prisons’ Minister will see this ONE Women’s Centre as good news and something to invest in and replicate elsewhere, whilst at the same time seeking to reduce the number of women in prison and invest in community provision. Ultimately this is good not only for the individual but also for families, for victims of crime, and for communities.”
The Right Reverend Rachel Treweek, Lord Bishop of Gloucester and Anglican Bishop for HM prisons. President of the Nelson Trust.
The Women’s Centre aims to reach at least 400 women during the 12-month pilot, providing the support needed for effective resettlement and a seamless transition from prison back into the community giving women a foundation to rebuild their lives.