A study has been carried out to see whether goal-setting could reduce re-offending amongst women following their release from prison. The report concluded that it had little effect, with the authors saying that “structural disadvantages” were the main hurdle that prevented women from living a crime-free life.
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Study into women’s reoffending
HM Prison and Probation Services performed a study on 255 female prisoners who were in the last six to eight weeks of their sentences. All were carrying out short prison sentences of 12 months or less. The women were asked to set a daily goal and provide peer support to a fellow participant. They were also given a ‘Best Possible Self’ task, which involved imagining what their life would look like in five years if everything went according to plan.
The authors of the study wanted to see whether these interventions increased self-efficacy and self-esteem, strengthened a non-criminal identity, and reduced the incidence of reoffending following release.
The findings of the study were recently published in a report titled “An evaluation of a brief intervention to reduce re-offending among women serving short sentences”. Within a year of release, 162 out of 228 women had been convicted of a further criminal offence. This rate is in line with the national average for women serving shorter sentences.
The authors of the report concluded that the brief intervention had a small effect on reducing offender rates over one year, and it could improve resettlement planning. However, it did not increase self-esteem, self-efficacy or future orientation.
Why do women re-offend?
Previous research indicates that there are several risk factors related to the likelihood that women on short sentences will re-offend. Those factors are binge drinking, lack of family closeness and poor temper control.
The report largely reiterated this former research, stating that re-offending was associated with previous substance misuse, not having a fixed address, a lack of family contact and not having substance use support. Based on these findings, the report emphasised just how important it is for women to have the right support, both in prison and following their release. This would better enable their reintegration into society.
The authors said: “The findings suggest that the structural disadvantages women face on release from prison can outweigh any psychological changes they may manage to make during a short sentence.
The study highlights the pressing need for effective services in accommodation, family support and substance use, starting in prison and continuing on release, in supporting women to live crime-free lives.”
This research gives credence to the idea that women would be better off serving a community penalty, as opposed to a short-term prison sentence. As a law firm, we will draw upon this research when making submissions to the court during a sentencing hearing.
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