New centre aims to get to empower women to reduce offending

Former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini (left), opens North Lanarkshire Council's new Community Justice Centre with Justice Services manager Liz Coates
Former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini (left), opens North Lanarkshire Council's new Community Justice Centre with Justice Services manager Liz Coates
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A new facility aimed at supporting women in the criminal justice system has opened in Wishaw.

The Community Justice Centre will see the council working with partners including the NHS and voluntary sector partners to provide a range of services.

It was opened by former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, whose report in 2012 looked at ways of improving the way women are treated by the criminal justice system.

The centre will provide a range of support services including housing, transport, childcare, training and education, health and lifestyle, drugs and alcohol interventions.

Dame Angiolini said: “Research has suggested almost all women sent to prison arrive there with mental health problems or alcohol or drug addictions.

“Many of them have been victims of domestic violence and most have low self-esteem and see imprisonment as reinforcing their feeling of low self-worth.

“For women who are repeatedly committing lower level offences, we need to get better at tackling the root cause of their problems in the community, and allowing the community to benefit from the punishments imposed.

“It’s absurd to think that three months in prison can help these vulnerable, damaged women.

“North Lanarkshire should take great credit for creating this new facility, which brings a number of services together and provides positive mentors and role models for the women. The whole focus is on making the women feel that they are worthwhile human beings and that their lives matter.

“In turn this will reduce re-offending and save the taxpayer money.”

The new centre aims to empower women and keep them engaged with key services to help them to move on with their lives in a planned and supported way.

At the opening guests were shown round the new centre including the craft room, fully equipped kitchen, laundry room and watched a DVD presentation which included details of the Community Justice Service.

They heard first hand accounts from women about their experiences of the justice system, and how the new centre has changed their lives.

They also found out about some of the projects the women on Community Payback Orders are involved in to pay back to the community.

Liz Coates, the council’s Justice Services manager, said: “The centre will ensure all agencies come together to give the women the opportunity to deal with underlying problems and the triggers to their offending behaviour.

“We are already seeing that the centre is having a positive impact on the women which helps them make positive lifestyle choices to improve their lives, their family’s lives and the wider community.”