Women succeed on community sentences – Joy Doal ambassador for Make Justice Work.

 In Guest Blogs, Joy Doal

Joy Doal is the project manager of the Anawim Project, a women’s centre in Birmingham that helps women in prostitution, victims of domestic violence and women who are in and out of prison. She is also an ambassador for Make Justice Work.

“We are one of the women’s community projects which come under Women’s breakout. We work with women who are vulnerable due to their involvement in crime, drugs, prostitution or as victims of abuse, crime or violence, usually a combination of both. We offer community sentences in the shape of Specified Activity requirements and Community Payback – women only work parties and individual placements and hope soon to offer the Mental Health Treatment Requirements as well. We started to look for alternatives to custody around 7 years ago when we saw how destructive short custodial sentences are for women through our prison in-reach work. We used to go into Brockhill Prison before it was re-rolled as a male establishment. I will never forget the week when most of the women had been shipped out, 2 of us were walking around chatting to the few women we could find, feeling very emotional at the thought of our only local prison disappearing. A prison officer looked at us and was very happy, saying he was so excited that it would soon be male again. He couldn’t understand why we were upset, saying ‘you’re mad these women drive me mad, they are like baby birds’. We looked blank and he explained how he would hide in his office as if he came out the women would circle him all demanding various things they needed, ‘I need to ring my Social worker’, ‘I need to get in touch with my mum to see how my kids are’, ‘can you read this letter for me?’ ‘what’s going to happen to me flat, me belongings’ etc etc. We laughed, it was such a graphic representation and illustrated just how it is for the women trying to hold their families together from inside. This is just not the case, usually, for their male counterparts. Women’s lives fall apart when they get shipped off miles away from home to a female establishment even if it is only for a couple of weeks, women spin all the plates and are the glue in their families, it all crashes down when they are away. This makes custodial sentences disproportionate as a punishment and so destructive to their wider circles of influence.

Women succeed on community sentences, they re-offend less often after them, as opposed to prison which does not work and creates them into demanding, disrespectful, insubordinate, troublesome, and sometimes violent prisoners.”

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