MP Kate Green visited HMP Styal to learn more about the work the prison and Interserve’s Community Rehabilitation Companies are doing to help support women preparing for release.
The Labour MP for Stretford and Urmston met with Prison Governor Mahala McGuffie and head of reducing reoffending Anastacia Selby, together with Chris Edwards, chief executive of the Cheshire & Greater Manchester and Merseyside CRCs.
Kate was on the government’s justice select committee up until May this year, has previously been a magistrate, and has a long-standing commitment to improving the criminal justice system..
She said: “I enjoyed a fascinating visit and was deeply impressed by the work being done to support women preparing for release.
“I last visited Styal about five years ago and what struck me is that it feels more hopeful, but that there is still a great deal more that we as a society can do to help support women in custody to rehabilitate.
“However, I was reassured that HMP Styal, the CRCs and partner agencies are working hard together to provide that support.”
Kate was presented with a stunning bouquet of flowers made by prisoners who are studying a horticultural qualification at Styal’s nursery. She also met with representatives from a range of partner agencies including Shelter, CRC’s commissioned resettlement organisation; Women in Prison and the Women’s Support Alliance.
Chris said: “I am delighted Kate took the time to visit Styal and to learn more about the work we do with colleagues from a range of agencies to help women prepare for release and supervision with the CRCs in the community.
“It’s fair to say in the past many of the organsations worked in isolation, but there has been a drive toward greater coordination – and that approach is beginning to work.
“Often women in prison have complex needs which can involve drugs, domestic abuse, homelessness and debt. However, if the right package of support can be made, stunning transformations can be achieved.”
There are 10 women’s prisons in the UK. Styal has capacity for roughly 440 people, with 80 per cent of the occupants being subject to short sentences.
Anastacia said: “Many of the women released from prison lead chaotic lifestyles and struggle to make appointments with housing agencies, benefits or substance misuse agencies. Social isolation is also a big issue for people trying to make real changes to their lives.
“But with support, we know that these transformations can be made.”
Joe McKie is one of four of Shelter’s resettlement workers at the prison. His job is to meet every woman within five days of them being admitted to custody to assess their housing need, and to also work with them 12 weeks prior to release.
He said: “Many of the women I meet are homeless or in unstable accommodation when they arrive at Styal.
“Some may have got into debt, be in rent arrears, or have been struck off housing lists due to problems relating to substance misuse and anti-social behaviour.
“We do our best to re-house people. It’s tough, it can require creative thinking, but housing is absolutely crucial to stopping people from re-offending.
“We also focus on resettling the women back into their local communities, such as providing help building support networks. Loneliness can be one of the greatest battles for women leaving Styal, many look upon the prison as their home.”
The CRCs supervise women released into the community on licence and those subject to post sentence supervision in order to support their rehabilitation.