Scheme aims to stop reoffending among vulnerable women
A pilot scheme aiming to stop the revolving door of reoffending by vulnerable women is due to be launched in Dorset.
The scheme is led by The Footprints Project charity, who will work with women who have committed first time low-level crimes, helping them address problems such as mental health issues, domestic abuse, poverty and homelessness to reduce the risk of going on carry out more offences.
Staff and volunteer mentors from the charity will hold regular meetings with the women over a 16 week period as part of an intervention to divert them away from a life of crime.
Dorset Police and Crime Commissioner Martyn Underhill, who is backing the scheme, said: “Clearly, there are many criminals out there who deserve nothing but custodial sentences. However, simply sending everyone who commits their first minor offence to prison is a bad way of reducing reoffending and a good way of creating career criminals.
“Nationally, more than 70% of women who serve sentences of less than 12 months end up reoffending within a year – and that is a situation in which there are no winners. This scheme is about putting meaningful interventions into place and breaking that revolving door which sees people leaving prison just to go on to commit further offences.”
The women will be identified by Dorset Police’s Out of Court Disposals team, and the Force now estimates that there could be at least 100 women across Dorset who could be referred to the scheme throughout the year.
Police officers across Dorset are now being trained to identify female offenders who may be vulnerable and benefit from a rehabilitative response.
The Footprints Project, which has been working with offenders across Dorset for more than 14 years, is now keen to hear from women across the county who want to train to become a volunteer mentor.
The scheme follows the publication of the Ministry of Justice’s Female Offender Strategy, which recognised that many women have complex needs and that short term prison sentences did not benefit offenders or the community.
Footprints CEO Caroline Stevens said: “Footprints has a long history of training volunteers to be part of the local solution to crime. We would love to hear from women who would like to volunteer and be part of this ground breaking project.”
Martyn Underhill said: “This is about trying to help women deal with those issues that have led to them carrying out low level offences in the first place.
“I hope to see this will provide them with the necessary support to stop this downward spiral and help prevent them from committing further offences.”