Posted in News
CEO Update: Women and the Prison Sytem
Tuesday, 27th September 2016
By Heather Nancarrow
Women in prison has been a recurring theme for me during the past fortnight since my last blog post.
Did you know that women are the fastest growing population in prison, in Australia and internationally, and that research consistently shows that the majority of women in prison are victim/survivors of domestic, family and/or sexual violence? For some women, their incarceration is the direct result of coercive controlling male violence. At the beginning of the fortnight I attended a breakfast to hear from UK Parliamentarian, The Right Hon, the Baroness Jean Corston, who led a ground-breaking enquiry into the UK prison system’s impact on women. The Corston Report (2007) called for “a distinct, radically different, visibly-led, strategic, proportionate, holistic, women-centred, integrated approach” and the government implemented 41 of its 43 recommendations. You can learn more about the incarceration of women and children at the forthcoming Sisters Inside conference to be held in Brisbane from 19-21 October. Attendance is free for any woman who has spent time in prison.
Suzi Quixley told us at the Prevalent and Preventable Conference in Adelaide (19-22 September) that the average length of time in prison for women is just one month – reflecting the minor nature of the majority of women’s crimes, yet the impact of incarceration on their and their children’s lives is devastating. The conference was bold, exciting, educational and inspirational and I extend a hearty congratulations to the co-convenors, AWAVA and OurWatch. I’m very grateful for the opportunity to speak on a panel with Our Watch CEO, Mary Barry, and Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Kate Jenkins to wrap up the 2-day intersectionality stream. ANROWS staff (Dr Mayet Costello, Dr Zuleyka Zevallos, Liz Orr and Violeta Politoff) gave an update on research activities (including the Perpetrator Interventions Research Stream, the National Community Attitudes on Violence against Women Survey, and the ANROWS Action Research Support Initiative).
On Friday morning, after the conference, Zuleyka and I met with Layla Langridge from the Perth Office of our pro bono law firm, Sparke Helmore, to discuss the ANROWS research project for which Sparke Helmore staff are raising funds. The project “The Forgotten Victims: How do women prisoners experience violence and seek help?” will be led by Professor Andrew Day of Deakin University and conducted in partnership with the Department of Correctional Services, South Australia and Flinders University. It is a one-year project which will examine help seeking needs of women prisoners and identify strategies to remove barriers to the support they need. ANROWS sincerely thanks Sparke Helmore staff around the country for raising funds for this research and Zuleyka will follow up with Layla, and her colleagues, when she is in Perth in mid-November.
Images: top: (left to right) at the Empowering Women – Changing Lives breakfast, Professor Julie Stubbs (who is a researcher on the NCAS project for ANROWS), Baroness Jean Corston, Heather Nancarrow, and Dr Mayet Costello, Director of Research; centre: Empowering Women with Kate Jenkins, Sex Discrimination Commissioner, Heather and Dr Mayet Costello; bottom: ANROWS at the Prevalent and Preventable conference, Dr Mayet Costello, Violeta Politoff, Liz Orr and Dr Zuleyka Zevallos.