Unlocking Value

November 25, 2008

How we all benefit from investing in alternatives to prison for women offenders

Community sentencing is an effective alternative to prison for women offenders which delivers long-term savings in public spending and prevents re-offending, using Social Return on Investment (SROI).

NEF’s research found that for every pound invested in support-focused alternatives to prison, £14 worth of social value is generated to women and their children, victims and society generally over ten years.

Not since the mid – 19th century has our prison system held as many women as it does today. Many are repeat petty offenders, trapped in a cycle of deprivation, disadvantage, drug abuse and crime that the prison system is conspicuously failing to break.

This report highlights how a criminal justice system focused on short – term cost control and narrow re – offending targets is letting women offenders down and costing more in the longer term.

Using Social Return on Investment (SROI) analysis, NEF has examined the costs and long – term benefits associated with the work of two centres providing an alternative to prison in Glasgow and Worcester. It concludes that support – focused community penalties involving high – quality facilities such as these are a more cost – effective option than imprisonment for non – violent women offenders.

Unlocking Value urges policy makers to ensure that sentencing does more to help overcome the problems of women offenders and meet their needs. It also calls for a more broad – based, sophisticated and balanced approach to measuring the impact of imprisonment and other sentencing options so that public money can be invested in a better – informed and more effective way of addressing the root causes of crime.