Victimisation, Abuse and Vulnerability
The prison survey found that 56% of women had experienced domestic abuse and that 31% were experiencing it at the time they came into custody. The prison adopted a supportive and sensitive approach to helping women deal with abuse. This included a well thought out process for asking women during induction about their experiences, allocating solely female staff as caseworkers and providing access to a good range of resources both in the prison and outside. A case worker planned services to meet the needs of victimised and vulnerable women and the range of services provided was very good.
Women could attend a domestic abuse programme run by abuse response service Lucretia. There was also a programme for women aged under 25 dealing with sexual exploitation and violence in relationships and gangs. Staff from the sexual assault referral centre attended every month to provide individual counselling. Practical legal advice was available through caseworkers who had received training from the national centre for domestic violence (NCVD). The NCDV also worked directly with women and a very good referral system was in place.
Women being released who were at risk of continued abuse received good help and advice before release. Links were established with independent domestic violence advisers in areas to which women were being released. Women who had been sex workers were identified and offered help, for example, through On the Street, a forum for women who had been involved in prostitution. On the Street also provided sexual health advice. On release women who had been involved in prostitution were given a safe sex pack and offered advice about community support organisations in their area. Practical advice about keeping safe was provided, including access to the Dangerous Game website, which identifies men considered dangerous to street workers. Some women did not want to return to prostitution after their release. These women had release plans drawn up which provided them with links to substance misuse services, accommodation providers and employers.
The prison-based branch of the Women’s Institute (WI) met monthly and was designed to give women who had been victimised a sense of status in mainstream society as well as boost their confidence. Caseworkers on the foreign national support team worked together to identify and help women who had been trafficked. The prison had a detailed prison policy on human trafficking and the organisation Traffic Stop had trained staff in identifying, supporting and referring such women.