Blog from Community Link Worker Paul Richardson on contributing to a Member Advisory Group on supporting women in criminal justice settings

As well as doing their day to day jobs working alongside people who use our services to provide support to those experiencing mental distress, our staff at Together also at times share their knowledge and experience with others in the mental health sector. One of those situations came about when Community Link Worker, Paul Richardson was invited to be part of the Ministry of Justice’s Member Advisory Group on supporting women in criminal justice settings. In the blog below Paul describes presenting to the group on the work of Together’s Community Link Service and some of the recommendations he provided:

It was a real bonus for the Community Link Worker (CLW) Service at Together to present at this Member Advisory Group and I was actually picked to be the first of two speakers at the first meeting which I was proud to be. The aim of the group is to identify issues for women currently going through the Criminal Justice system. In my experience I’ve found women have and continue to be treated unfairly in some situations within criminal justice and in particular when it comes to sentencing. We have been asked by the Commissioner for Domestic Violence to look at ways that currently work to identify women’s specific and what we as professionals can be doing to combat inequality for women.

In speaking I got the chance to discuss the CLW service and how we try to be at the forefront of research around supporting women in Criminal Justice incorporating the lived experiences of people we work alongside. Additionally I was also able to introduce our own Learning and Development Team to look for any learning that Together could benefit from, asking for any feedback after the group was concluded.

In terms of the process around preparing for the presentation, I had a virtual meeting with Tammie Burroughs who is Effective Practice Lead at HMI Probation. Tammie is someone I collaborate with on research and we would both be presenting so we met initially to identify areas we would focus on. As one of the places I’m based for my work is Westminster Court, one of the biggest and busiest in the UK, I wanted to start by looking at current provisions that are in place to support the process of women going through Criminal Justice. I then started focusing more on courts across London to look at standardised legal policies that are present in law to protect the rights of women and compare those. I was able to do this as I have court security passes and clearance for all courts and police stations throughout London.

An important part of the research I wanted to present was to consider standardised training and advisory panels that practitioners receive when working with women within Criminal Justice within Together. I reached out to staff from across our organisation on our policies and guides we have developed so the learning from those could be shared with the member advisory group. Within my research I also looked to take guidance on how I could factor in transgender women and their specific needs within criminal justice so those could be identified and met.

Presenting to the group went well and everyone unanimously praised Together and all the work being done to make women’s rights a reality. I believe the reason I was chosen as the first speaker as the MOJ Women’s Group is based on all the work the CLW service and our team is doing for women today. We were also invited as speakers at the group to provide our ideas to reduce the number of women sentenced to a short spell in prison. On that subject my own ideas were for mandatory reflective practice to be provided that is peer led for people setting sentences and also for those same people to engage with individuals with lived experience of prison to further inform decisions.

Thank you to Paul for sharing the insights on the work he has been doing and presenting to the group.