‘Blurring the lines’: the voluntary and community sector and service delivery for women offenders

Kate Burns1
1Monash University, Clayton, Australia

Over the last two decades, there has been increased involvement of the voluntary and community sector (VCS) in the provision of services and partnership arrangements in the criminal justice system. There are numerous examples of previously state-owned services being taken over by the VCS and private sector, such as privatised prisons, electronic tagging and community corrections.  Using a case study from the justice reinvestment pilot in Greater Manchester (UK) this paper explores the tension between Women’s Centres delivering services to women ‘at need’ while also being contracted by the government to reduce offending rates of women offenders. The ‘whole system’ approach to reducing female offending in Greater Manchester was promoted as being about reducing financial cost to the state. Women were a specific focus of the pilot not only because of the perceived immense cost on the state if children go into care when their mother is imprisoned, but also because the pilot could draw on the services of already extant VCS-run Women’s Centres to address the needs of women offenders. While the use of Women’s Centres to offending behaviour formed part of the justice reinvestment pilot in the UK, the use of VCS in the provision of services has wider implications for the criminal justice systems in the UK and Australia.

Dr Kate Burns is a Scholarly Teaching Fellow at Monash University. Kate has wide public-sector experience and prior to taking up her academic position at Monash, worked in various public policy positions in the United Kingdom with a focus on the criminal justice system. Kate’s research interests include criminal justice policy, penal systems, incarceration and justice reinvestment.


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