January 14th 2015 | Royal College of Surgeons, King Khalid Building

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What happened in 2013

What happened in 2013

Holyrood's inaugural Female Offenders conference was a hugely successful event with over 120 delegates in attendance and focused delivering answers to three key questions:

  1. How can we break the cycle of women's offending?
  2. What opportunities do we have in Scotland to design services which meet the needs of women?
  3. How can we rise to the challenge of working effectively with women in custody and the community?

To help encourage debate and discussion and find answers to these questions, delegates were treated to a number of presentations by key players at the forefront of female offending. Keynote speakers included Kenny MacAskill MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice, The Scottish Government; Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children & Young People, Dr Linda de Caestecker, Director of Public Health, NHS Greater Glasgow & Clyde and Kate Donegan, Governor of Cornton Vale Prison and Project Executive of the SPS College's Women Offenders Project. 

The conference, chaired by Rt Hon. Henry McLeish, Former First Minister of Scotland, was split into four key sessions covering a number of key areas:

Session One: Setting the scene

The Commission on Women Offenders in Scotland confirmed that the vast majority of female offenders were vulnerable women whose offending was often a result of a complex mix of issues including; chaotic lifestyles, mental illness and severe addiction problems. While none of these issues excuse breaking the law, Dame Elish said that prison should not be a 'dumping ground' for women needing respite and care. This session looked at the findings of the commission and progress to date on putting its recommendations into action. 

Session Two: Delivering real alternatives to custody

The Commission found that a significant proportion of female offending was lower level offences and as a result of underlying issues. It also found that short term prison sentences had little impact on reoffending rates. This session explored the wider context of female offending in Scotland and considered how alternatives to custody that address some of the underlying issues would help reduce offending and rehabilitate female offenders.

Session Three: Working in the community

The Commission made it clear that more community based alternatives to custody are needed, including the establishment of community justice centre ‘one stop shops’ across Scotland, improvements in mentoring services, and improved support for female offenders with complex needs. This session highlighted the work of just a few of these community justice services that are operating in Scotland.

Session Four: Breaking the cycle of female offending - next steps

The Scottish Government has committed to taking forward the majority of recommendations from the Commission on Female Offending and will be considering the remaining recommendations in further detail and in partnership with key stakeholders from across the sector. Service reform will take many years, but the first steps are being taken. This final session looked towards the future as the commission’s recommendations become reality…

Who attended in 2013?

Here is a sample of the delegate audience:

  • Board member
  • Chief Executive
  • Deputy Governor
  • Development Manager
  • Head of Rehabilitation
  • Operations Manager
  • Partnerships Manager
  • Social Worker
  • Service Manager

A selection of comments from last year's delegates:

  • The event was a fantastic success and the support and professionalism of the staff in the organisation was well received by myself as a presenter.
  • An excellent day with lots of information and identification of how much work there is to be done to reduce the numbers of women in prison.
  • Excellent Conference. informed and committed speakers.
  • Holyrood are clearly experienced and professional at organising events, with the right balance of delivery, discussion and impact.
  • A well organised event, relevant and meaningful to what is going on in the real world.
  • First class conference which ensures those delivering services get heard by the governing bodies
  • A fascinating, informative and inspirational conference well devised, planned and organised.