Preceding chapters have covered a wide range of topics and theories about female offenders and the criminal justice system. In drawing together some overall conclusions, this chapter will engage with issues arising from the Corston Report (2007) and the current Transforming Rehabilitation (TR) programme, and make some tentative observations about possible futures. Some of the impetus that drove the compilation of this book came from what is now regarded, at least among academics, practitioners and campaigning groups, as ‘received wisdom’: namely, that women's offending and their needs within the criminal justice system are different to those of males. It is thus concerning and somewhat perplexing that these aspects still do not seem to find resonance at central government level, with persisting conventional notions, or at least unquestioned assumptions, that a criminal justice system designed by men for men can provide equality, or that females can be slotted into ‘male’ approaches to justice. From the perspective adopted in this book these approaches are viewed as limited, both in their scope and in their effectiveness. Instead, our conceptualisation (in line with Corston) opens the door to exploring what women's needs are and what might ‘work’ in a holistic way to ameliorate problems and thus help reduce women's offending.
The publication of the Corston Report in 2007 drew attention to the many women serving sentences for minor or non-violent offences; such responses were felt to be both disproportionate and inappropriate. Corston clearly identified women's vulnerabilities, including domestic violence, childcare issues, being a single parent, mental illness, low self-esteem, eating disorders, substance misuse, poverty, isolation and unemployment (Corston, 2007: 2), and argued that these vulnerabilities are likely to result in crisis points, which ultimately may result in entry into the criminal justice process and, in many cases, into prison. She concluded that for most women (other than those committing the most serious crimes), it was more appropriate to address the range of issues connected with their offending before imprisonment became a serious option.
Moreover, Corston argued that when women were made subject to community sentences, these should be different in focus, content and style to those imposed on men.