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Women-Centred: The West Mercia Community-Based Programme for Women Offenders (From Women and Punishment: The Struggle for Justice, 110-124, 2002, Pat Carlen, ed. -- See NCJ-195990)

NCJ Number
Jenny Roberts
Date Published
15 pages
This chapter describes the history, components, and evaluation findings for the British community-based groupwork program for women offenders established by the Hereford and Worcester Probation Service (now the West Mercia Area) in 1993.
The creation of the groupwork program for women offenders was based in the recognition that in England and Wales there are often no community-based sentences tailored to the needs of women. Sentencers may find this so unsatisfactory that they do not use a community-based sentence for women offenders. Failure to provide courts with community sentences specifically for women may contribute directly to the increasing size of the female prison population. Based on an analysis of the needs of women offenders, the groupwork program focuses on the following women-centered needs: finance, stress management, responsibility/control, self-esteem, impulsiveness, personal relationships, mental/emotional, and drugs. The program is delivered in a safe, women-only environment either through closed groups or one-to-one. In the local probation services, practitioners have been systematically trained in a number of techniques that support effective practice. Childcare facilities are provided at the point of service delivery. The program model assumes that wherever possible, women should access community resources, so the program does not directly provide treatment. Links between the program and outside community agencies influence the agencies to tailor their services to women offenders. After 8 years of operation, the program averages a completion rate of approximately 70 percent. A crude evaluation done in 1998 showed that women who completed the program were reconvicted at levels well below the rate predicted by use of the Offender Group Reconviction Score. A more sophisticated evaluation in the year 2000 found that after 2 years, women who served custodial sentences were reconvicted 14 percentage points more than those women who had completed the program.