Send female drug addicts to rehab not jail, says Baroness Butler-Sloss

Send female drug addicts to rehab not jail, says ex-High Court judge Baroness Butler-Sloss in bid to curb re-offending

  • Baroness Butler-Sloss made the call at Westminster as bid to reduce inmates
  • Peers heard the vast majority of women in jail were for non-violent offences
  • She said it would be better for offenders to have rehabilitation under probation 

Non-violent women offenders addicted to drink or drugs should be sent for rehabilitation rather than prison, a former High Court judge has claimed.

Independent crossbencher Baroness Butler-Sloss made the call at Westminster as the Government was pressed over progress on efforts steps to reduce the number of female inmates.

Peers heard the vast majority of women currently in prison were in for non-violent offences and on short sentences, while more than half had been victims of domestic violence.

Lady Butler-Sloss said: ‘Wouldn’t it be better for women addicted to drink or drugs who commit non-violent offences to go to a residential rehabilitation centre under a probation order rather than go to prison?’

Tory frontbencher Baroness Scott of Bybrook said the renationalisation of the probation service would enable community sentences to be looked at ‘much more seriously’ for such offenders.

The supervision of all offenders on licence and serving community sentences in England and Wales is to be brought back entirely under public control after what were described as fundamental flaws in part-privatising the probation system.

The public National Probation Service (NPS) will take over management of low and medium-risk cases, which are currently handled by private providers.

Under the existing system, high-risk individuals are supervised by the NPS, with all other work assigned to community rehabilitation companies (CRCs).

Speaking in the House of Lords, Lady Butler-Sloss said: ‘Wouldn’t it be better for women addicted to drink or drugs who commit non-violent offences to go to a residential rehabilitation centre under a probation order rather than go to prison?

Lady Scott said: ‘I do think the new probation service, which is a unified service nationally, is the way we can look at these in community sentences much more seriously for these offenders.’

Peers heard the vast majority of women currently in prison were in for non-violent offences and on short sentences, while more than half had been victims of domestic violence

Tory peer Baroness Fall, who served as a top aide to David Cameron when he was prime minister, said: ‘The vast majority of women in prison today are held for non-violent offences and on short sentences.

‘60% of them have experienced domestic abuse and many of these women will reoffend – a destructive and costly cycle.

‘Would the minister not agree that we should seek to build a support structure around these vulnerable women and investing in women’s centres is a good start?’

Lady Scott said: ‘We do need to put a whole system around each of our female offenders or women who are likely to become offenders.’

She said the first women’s centre would be in South Wales and moves were under way to identify a suitable site, with the aim of creating further facilities across England.

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