Surrey has lowest rate of imprisoning women thanks to rehabilitation scheme
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Surrey has the lowest rate of imprisoning women in the country, thanks in part to a rehabilitation scheme for low-level crimes.
Figures released by the Prison Reform Trust show that the imprisonment rate for 2019 was just nine per 100,000 women in Surrey, the lowest rate in the country. By contrast, the police force area with the highest imprisonment rate was South Wales with 62 per 100,000 women.
Surrey’s low rate can be attributed to two schemes which have been successfully rolled out across the county over the last five years.
The Women’s Justice Intervention (WJI) scheme, which was introduced in 2016, recognises that traditional justice isn't always the best way of preventing re-offending, and that working closely with offenders outside of the court system can be much more effective, as well as providing greater satisfaction for victims.
While that scheme targeted women offenders, a new broader scheme for all eligible adults based on Durham Constabulary's Checkpoint programme, was launched in Surrey in 2019.
Surrey Checkpoint is a deferred prosecution scheme for lower level offences, which aims to reduce reoffending with targeted interventions while providing greater satisfaction for victims.
That scheme incorporates Checkpoint Plus, which has enhanced eligibility and includes women with multiple previous convictions and more complex needs.
Working with the Women’s Centre in Woking and the Police and Crime Commissioner, the Force has been able we have been able to work with many women who might have been sent to prison, turning their lives around and giving them longer term interventions. At the point of charge, caution or summons, the male or female offender will be asked if they want to take part in the scheme as an alternative.
A needs assessment will be conducted with the offender and the victim will be spoken to find out what they need from the process. A contract is then drawn up and agreed with the offender. This may include work in the community, counselling, help with mental health, drink or anger management, or a face to face apology. They may also be signposted to someone for longer term help with debt or housing issues. If they complete the agreement, the case is closed and isn’t recorded as a criminal conviction.
If they don’t complete the agreement, the file will be sent back to the investigating officer for them to continue with a caution or charge.
Surrey Police’s Checkpoint Manager Ailsa Quinlan said: “To hear that Surrey imprisons the lowest number of women in the country is great news and testament to the hard work and determination of all those involved in running the scheme.
“We are very proud that the data shows that of the 200 men and women who completed their Checkpoint intervention between 7 January 2019 and 31 January 2020, only 12 had reoffended when we assessed these a year later. This is a re-offending rate of 6%, compared to a national average of over 25%.
“The Checkpoint scheme means that women who commit lower-level offences are still able to live with their families and children and are provided with the support they need to get over their trauma and live safely within their communities. I would like to say a big thank you to everyone involved – I am really proud of what we have all achieved.”
Police and Crime Commissioner David Munro said: “The Surrey Checkpoint scheme is one of only a few in the country and I am delighted to see that all the hard work that has gone into making it a success from the Force team and my office is really paying dividends.
“One of my key priorities as PCC has been to reduce reoffending in the county which has included a real focus and support for providing alternatives for women in the criminal justice system. I strongly believe if the right services are offered to offenders then we can help steer them away from returning to a life of crime meaning the communities in which they live will also benefit.
“I have seen first-hand the dedication and professionalism of the Checkpoint team and I would like to congratulate all those involved for the achievements that have clearly been made so far. I look forward to seeing Checkpoint go from strength to strength and continue to make a real difference to our communities in the future.”
The scheme’s success is also highlighted by the emails the team receives:
It's RL- you might remember me from about a year ago when you helped to give me a second chance in life to start over with a clean slate.
But the part I guess I wanted to tell you most about is the fact that this last year, emotionally, I've felt the happiest I've ever felt in my life.
I'm so happy with life and I just can't believe how far I've come.
Really, all of this wouldn't have been possible without your help though and it's something I am forever grateful for. The fact that you believed in me enough to bat for my corner and give me that second chance means the world. I still think how different things would have been if I had a record or something hanging over my head - I definitely think it would still have affected me negatively to this day - so being able to live my life without a record or having it sort of hanging over my head is something I remind myself of everyday. I'm always so grateful for the fact you gave me that second chance and I really would probably not be where I am today if it wasn't for you. I hope you know how often I think about the work we did together and how much of a positive impact it has had on my life. What happened was an absolute turning point for me in my life and I intend to continue on like this for the rest of my life - but I will never forget how much you helped me in that time of need. I will always be grateful for everything you did to help me, it absolutely changed my life.