On Wednesday, 26th April, Agenda Alliance and the Alliance for Youth Justice (AYJ) held an online discussion as part of our Young Women’s Justice Project.
The event brought together organisations within the criminal justice and youth sectors, front-line practitioners and women with lived experience to recap our project findings, hear how the findings are reflected in the work of other organisations and discuss how we can work in partnership and continue to engage stakeholders to take account of the needs of young women in contact with the criminal justice system (CJS).
As part of the discussion, we presented the following key findings from the project thus far:
- Young women in contact with the criminal justice system have limited access to specialist support despite extensive levels of need
- Up to 90% of girls in contact with the youth justice system have experienced abuse from a family member or someone they trusted
- Girls in custody self-harm at much higher rates than boys. In the year ending March 2022, the rate of self-harm was seven times higher in the female estate, with 3,846 incidents per 1,000 female prisoners and 550 incidents per 1,000 male prisoners.
- Of the 43 Police and Crime Plans published at the time of writing, only two committed to specific actions to address the needs of girls and young women
- Black, Asian and minoritised young women, and young women with experience of care, face greater barriers in accessing safety and support as overlapping forms of stigma and discrimination put them at greater risk of criminalisation
- 22% of 18- to 24-year-old women in prison are from a Black, Asian and minoritised group, despite only 13% of the general population identifying themselves this way.
Reflecting on these findings, organisations shared how the project’s learnings resonate with their own work, highlighting the importance of understanding the drivers for women’s offending, including experience of trauma and abuse, and embedding trauma-informed approaches to working with young women across the CJS, for example delivering training to police forces.
This discussion was followed by breakout rooms, during which some of the key points that emerged were:
- The need for unrestricted, multi-year funding to allow organisations to think long-term, build trust and confidence with young women and provide real progress
- Early intervention must take place before young women are in contact with the criminal justice system and this involves increased youth provision and youth services
- For partnership work to be effective, information sharing of challenges and best practice can help, as well as having a neutral coordinator to address any power imbalances
- Meaningful co-production must be led by young women and includes compensating women for their time and labour, showing them the outputs of their work and providing safeguarding
- The continuing importance of specialist provision with practitioners who are representative of the communities, and understand the needs of the young women, they serve
Following the event, we will be producing a briefing later this year to explore how to effect change for young women across the criminal justice system. This will support our work with the MoJ and HMPPS to deliver the Young Adult Women's Strategy, and engagement with PCCs and policing bodies.