L-R-Jess Phillips MP, Paula Harriot, Emily THornberry MP, CLlr Sara Hyde, Mariana, Seema Malhorta MP, Ghadah Alnasseri, Naz Shah MP 67
Blog, Policy briefing | 16 February 2023

Solidarity, equality and opportunity: new publication explores how we can create a better criminal justice system for women

We’re delighted to share our expertise in the new Fabian Women’s Network publication: ‘Solidarity, equality and opportunity: creating strong social justice systems for women’.

Published in 2022 and launched at a Parliamentary event in January 2023, the collection of essays and think-pieces brings together the voices and expertise of those working in the sector, and those with lived experience, offering solutions, highlighting good practice and showcasing effective work already being carried out in the community to tackle some of the most pressing issues faced by women in the criminal justice system, such as housing, health, sentencing and probation, and work.

Employment is just one piece of the puzzle to create real change within the system, but research has shown it’s one of the surest ways to reduce reoffending. Both Working Chance’s Lizzy Jewell and Mundill Mahil contribute their expertise to the ‘Women, welfare and work’ chapter.

There are systemic problems that require systemic solutions to stop thousands of women from being subjected to the harm that the criminal justice system poses.

Lizzy Jewell
Head of Communications and Engagement, Working Chance

In her article ‘Women and cycles of criminalisation’, Lizzy explains “there are systemic problems that require systemic solutions, to stop thousands of women from being subjected to the harm that the criminal justice system poses.”

She says that “meaningful employment, the support to get there, and a benefits system that can be safely relied upon, to avoid women resorting to offending to make ends meet”, are fundamental to helping women move on from the cycles of criminalisation. Universal Credit is a particular focus given Working Chance’s project Changemakers, where a group of women with lived experience called for reforms to benefits, in order to give women the best chance to build a future free from offending.

Poverty is a key driver of women’s offending. Lizzy goes on to explain why employment is so important to helping women move on from the criminal justice system,

“Once a woman has been given the tools to overcome the barriers to employment, the impact of having a meaningful job can be utterly transformative. As well as income, employment gives structure to life and a reason to get up in the morning. It means that a woman can use her talents and learn new skills. It helps her to feel accomplished, useful, appreciated, and hopeful. This mindset, research shows, makes people far less likely to engage in criminal behaviour.”

Meanwhile, Mundill speaks from her own lived experiences, highlighting the challenges and discrimination she faced as she tried to rebuild her life after a conviction. She recalls “awkward disclosures”, “behind closed doors decision making” and being made to feel like a “risky hire” and a “liability” before she found a job where she feels valued and seen. Mandy is now Working Chance’s Strategy and Governance Manager, and was shortlisted for the Third Sector Rising Star Award in 2021.

If you're interested in building a better justice system for women, download ‘Solidarity, equality and opportunity: creating strong social justice systems for women’ to find out how women in the sector are already building solutions to transform the criminal justice system and how women experience it.

About Fabian Women’s Network

The Fabian Women’s Network is an intersectional feminist network for social and political change that understands that the barriers women face entering and progressing in politics and public life are not the same for everyone. Its mission is to elevate diverse women’s voices and promote those on political and public life who are under-represented. Learn more on their website.