Books

Who cares about research for women in prison?

Research for women in prison is a resource that is designed to support researchers and practitioners. It is the first time there has been a place that practitioners, researchers and other interested people can easily access information relating to women in prison.  The aim of the blog is simple: it is to educate people about international and local issues which affect women in prison.

phd r4wip hand

The website: wwwr4womeninprison.com, promotes the work of organisations involved with women in the criminal justice system, the views of prisoners, practitioners and researchers as well as research findings. Criminal justice systems around the world are different however there is a consensus that knowledge about women in prison is fragmented. While the issue of women in prison is recognized by a few campaigners, researchers or specialists, there are many others which criticize such a narrow focus. Helen Crewe who is a criminologist and founder of an international network of researchers is the writer and owner of the blog.  Helen gives a response to two main criticisms of the blog:

There are many problems in the world, societies and local communities which are more important than women in prison. Who cares about this issue?

“I am writing this blog from the perspective of having taught women in prison. Research for women in prison uses international legislation, provides knowledge about broader issues such as the provision of housing or healthcare. The blog promotes organisations, campaigns and studies which are relevant for the majority of people and highlights that problems for women in prison are a reflection of society”.

Women in prison are a minority, so why not focus on problems that exist for all people in the criminal justice system?

“It is surprising how much research and knowledge there is about women in prison. Despite this, the minority status of women in prison has led to a small chapter or paragraph in a policy manual. Research for women in prison hopes to highlight the need for a central place that is accessible and helpful for improving knowledge”.

Research for women in prison is a resource that is useful about many issues. There is a monthly newsletter which will give up to date information about current studies, conferences and campaigns.

helen 2015

Helen Crewe is the founder of a social media network for researchers and practitioners who are involved with projects relating to women in prison. http://www.r4womeninprison.com.  She is a criminologist,consultant, researcher, writer and trainer specializing in issues which relate to women in the criminal justice system.

Coaching Behind Bars….. By Clare McGregor

Working in the community with women who have been in custody is challenging yet rewarding work. However, what goes on behind the scenes through a different set of eyes is narrated by Clare McGregor in this sparkling, entertaining (perfect for cross country train journeys where every stop feels like counting milestones on foot) book.

Clare McGregor is the brains behind Coaching Inside & Out initiative. Having come across Clare two years ago whilst serving my sentence, I have followed her on that social media place where folks sing like canaries.

My utter delight when coming across Clare’s book involved a little dance around my office chanting “Now she’s gone and written a book” and I totally understand why. Women from HMP Styal are referred into SHE as the resettlement prison for the North West. I have a natural affinity with Styal due to SHE’s women and listening as we do “on the other side”  A few clicks later, I had ordered the book and it came in a couple of days.

As I do with all our books, I immediately write in the front: “Office Copy – Not To Be Removed”  I waved it around lots telling and threatening removal of sugars in coffee should it be missing from our book shelf. (I took it home, so don’t tell anyone okay?)

On Monday, I travelled to Cambridge. What a bastard of a journey. I had some documents to read, some writing to do, alas Cross Country Trains aren’t so generous with the internet speed – emails get sent if one is lucky.

I peered in my book and there it was. I had my train coffee (or what passes for coffee) and as I was on page 18 from a mosey through the first few pages on arrival, I was happy to get stuck in.

Coaching – How very American and for the rich only…. But no wealth or status has the cornerstone on being coached. Why not coach women who are in the vice-like grip of the prison estate? Women who have been through crisis that could make even the hardiest of persons wither. Clare with her 20-year background in service creation has blended women which society forget with her two-decade experience into this fabulous page-turner.

I don’t coach our women – I plainly support them in accommodation – nag them about the dentist, the doctor, help them with bank accounts, listen when they are pissed off with their Probation Officer and talk about gaining employment. But, Clare’s book has highlighted in beautiful words, the power of these women responding to coaching. The words of Clare resonate in my work – SHE women shout – Prisons are noisy places and to be heard, these women need to shout – I hear myself saying on our corridor when other organisations say “Tracey’s lot are noisy” Yes they are – I think you would be, locked up with a few hundred other women. Still, social boundaries are one area that coaching helps with. Clare’s book describes women imagining themselves on sunny beaches, eating ice-cream and watching the waves crash. The chapter “Problems” describes what I hear from SHE women on release – fear of coming home, family disowning them, seeing their children and the worry of gaining employment. Clare describes indepth, how these women are supported in navigating the quagmire of life on the inside and the outside through coaching.

This is truly a beautiful read and had me laughing and crying, but in such an uplifting way. I could relate to all the women’s narratives and I hear them daily from SHE Women. Of course, our women want to read it and I might have to learn to trust my book will be returned for others to read.

A superb read and comes highly recommended for anyone who has a curiosity about women in prison and an excellent insight for organisations who work with women in the community following a custodial sentence.

 

Clare Mc

Clare’s book can be purchased here