The Corston Report:10 Years On

This year is the ten-year anniversary of The Corston Report, a landmark review from Women in Prison’s Patron Baroness Jean Corston into women in the criminal justice system.

Women in Prison has launched a new report, Corston+10 which reveals the scale of reversal to progress made in reforming the criminal justice system and reducing the women’s prison population following Baroness Corston’s recommendations, that, in 2007, received all-party support and Government backing.

Baroness Corston published 43 recommendations calling for a gender-distinct, women-centred and holistic approach to supporting women affected by the criminal justice system. They gained cross-party support and were broadly accepted by three successive governments. With our prisons in crisis, deaths and self-harm on the increase, there is growing consensus that there is an urgent need to reduce the prison population and revisiting Baroness Corston’s recommendations is a good place to start on how to achieve this.

►►► Read WIP’s new report, a ‘traffic-light’ review of Baroness Corston’s recommendations: Corston+10

To mark the anniversary WIP has also launched a new campaign, 2020 by 2020, which aims to reduce number of women in prison to 2,020 (or fewer) by 2020; reducing the human and financial cost of prison to communities, women and families. To kick things off we have produced briefings for MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners on what steps they can take to achieve change.

Pledge your support for the 2020 campaign!

To launch Corston+10 and to celebrate and thank Baroness Corston for her continued dedication to the campaign WIP hosted a reception in Parliament. Around 160 people attended an afternoon tea reception in the House of Lords.

The reception brought together MPs, Lords, Prison Governors, Police and Crime Commissioners, NOMS officials and Council leaders. One of the biggest achievements of the Corston Report was to establish a network of Women’s Centres offering specialist and holistic support to women affected by the criminal justice sytstem. It was fantastic to have so many Women’s Centre leads from across the country attended the event - including from North Wales Women’s Centre, Tomorrow’s Women Wirral, Nottingham Women’s Centre, Brighton Women’s Centre, Dawn Project in Cambridge and our very own Women’s Support Centre in Woking, WomenMATTA in Manchester and the Beth Centre in Lambeth.

Most importantly we also brought together women with experience of prison and the criminal justice system to meet MPs and share their story and ideas for change. The theatre company Clean Break also gave a brilliant performance with two actors from the company. The play performed was inspired by workshops held in prison.

We were delighted that the Secretary of State for Justice Liz Truss also joined us, gave a speech and listened to our calls for change.

Women in Prison presented Baroness Corston with a stunning bouquet of knitted flower, created by women from across the prison estate and also an embroidered handkerchief and knitted wall hanging. The brilliant organisation Fine Cell Work also presented Baroness Corston with a beautiful embroidered cushion made by a woman in HMP Send.

Baroness Jean Corston said: “Ten years ago, after a nine month inquiry, I proposed a radical reshaping of women’s prisons. My report received cross party support. Progress initially was heartening but that has halted and is now in real danger of going into reverse. I am delighted therefore that on this, the 10th anniversary, we are renewing the demand for change and hopefully recruiting new allies from MPs from all parties, the Lords, Police and Crime Commissioners and the women’s sector. The arguments have never been stronger nor the need to empty our female prisons and provide justice and proper support in the community so clear. It’s time again to move forward on reform - and urgently.”

Police and Crime Commissioner for Northumbria Dame Vera Baird, who introduced Baroness Corston at the reception, said: “Ten years on from the publication of Baroness Corston’s ground breaking report we have an ideal opportunity to drive change forward in reducing the women’s prison population and investing in community alternatives. I welcome these briefings from Women in Prison encouraging MPs and PCCs to drive change locally and make a real difference.  I am delighted that the Secretary of State for Justice, Liz Truss is supporting the event, as I believe having support from government will ensure the changes we want to see will come about quicker. Together we can drive the prison population down so that 2020 or fewer women are in prison by 2020. I look forward to working together with my fellow PCCs to make that happen”.

Women in Prison Chief Executive Kate Paradine said: “Today we call on all MPs and Police and Crime Commissioners to lead their constituencies and police forces in radically reducing the number of women in prison. Ten years ago our patron Baroness Corston showed us how this could be done. We now need to get on and finish the job.”