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Bishop of Gloucester calls for aid to free jailed women

31 July 2020

C of E should better support early release for women imprisoned for non-violent crimes

Diocese of Gloucester

HALF the women currently in prison in the UK should not be there, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, has said.

In an interview for the Prison Fellowship, published this month, Bishop Treweek said that the Church should do more to support early release for women imprisoned for non-violent crimes. The Church should also do more to rehabilitate those at risk of being caught in the “revolving door” of short prison sentences, reoffending, and imprisonment.

She continued: “Earlier in the Covid-19 crisis, when they were talking of letting some women out early, I would have loved to be able to really confidently say to the Government: ‘Their local church will take care of them, will mentor them, will walk alongside them, will ensure they don’t reoffend.’

“My vision is that the Church could reflect this heart of God in how we support that restoration, mend that brokenness. It shouldn’t become a specialist interest for the few. If we are the Church, then we have to do this.”

Since she became the first female bishop in the House of Lords, in 2015, Bishop Treweek has campaigned for better care and recognition of young people by both society and the Government, especially women and girls suffering from anxiety.

Most women in the prison system (70 per cent) had experienced child sexual or domestic abuse, she said. “The women in women’s centres and in prison, they haven’t flourished. Something has gone wrong in their story, and I long to go back to when they were girls, when their story started. Half the women in prison shouldn’t be there. . .

“Hope comes when I see those seeds of change. . . Stories of how they were managing to reconnect with their children, recover from their addiction, find work. Or when I’m in prison, and I talk to a woman who wants to live differently. For me, that’s a sign that women believe things can be different. You are seeing transformation in their lives.”

Bishop Treweek was “very frustrated” that the Female Offender Strategy from 2017 had not yet been implemented. “It looked like we were finally moving in the right direction, focusing on women’s centres and how we were supporting women at risk of going to prison. But it has been thrown off course by Brexit and Covid-19. I want to hold the Government’s feet to the fire.”

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