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30 June 2016

Proposals for Holloway women’s centre

Today the Prison Reform Trust publishes a proposal for the establishment of a women’s centre on the site of the existing visitors centre at HMP Holloway, which is due to close later this month.

On the 1 December 2015, Juliet Lyon wrote to the Secretary of State for Justice following his announcement of the closure of Holloway with a challenging proposal to work with strategic partners including MOPAC, Islington London Borough Council, NHS London, the Metropolitan Police, London Community Rehabilitation Company and women’s voluntary organisations to retain the HMP Holloway visitors centre (a purpose built space refurbished by the Tudor Trust) as a women’s centre.

To date the proposal has attracted both cross-party and pan-London support. In his response to PRT on the 16 December 2015, Secretary of State Michael Gove set out his commitment to reduce the women’s prison population and confirmed at a Justice Committee meeting on the 16 March 2016 that the proposal was ‘a good idea’ and was under consideration by the Ministry of Justice.

Since the original proposal was made to the Secretary of State, PRT has held a series of exploratory meetings with key strategic leads in London, including the CEO of Islington Council, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, London CRC, Islington Planning Authority, members of the London Women’s Consortium and correspondence with local MP Jeremy Corbyn. These discussions have informed the proposal.

Commenting, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust said:

“Since November last year when the Justice Secretary announced the closure of Holloway, Michael Gove has had plenty of time to consider plans for an effective alternative to custody on the site. He should act now to provide much needed services for vulnerable women and a proper sentencing option for North and East London courts.

“The prison visitors’ centre offers a ready-made place for support and supervision, access to safe housing, mental health and addiction services, debt counselling, employment training and a crèche. A Holloway women’s centre would be a fitting legacy for all those staff, prisoners, supporters and monitors who have worked so hard to create a positive, rehabilitative culture in a prison beset by problems in the past. As one senior member of staff said ‘It would give us all heart.

“Almost half the women (44%) held in Holloway were serving a sentence of six months or less mostly for petty, persistent offending. Many had been victims of far more serious crime, domestic violence, sexual abuse and rape. Decanting vulnerable women far from their families into hard to visit prisons in leafy Surrey does nothing to address the overuse of imprisonment and its damaging impact on women, young children, the staff who do their best to care for them and taxpayers who foot the bill.”

Click here to read the full proposal.