Lady Edwina Grosvenor is an inspirational philanthropist and tireless prison reformer and the founder and Chair of One Small Thing, a charity dedicated to redesigning the justice system for women and their children in a way that can be replicated and scaled across the UK. The charity will next year open the doors of a first of its kind housing project in Southampton will offer female offenders and their children an alternative to jail.
The Hope Street Hub is a pioneering rehabilitative community for women and their children in Southampton which can house up to 124 women and children. It will provide a much-needed alternative for women serving community sentences and those on probation in Hampshire. The Hub supports the thinking behind the 2018 Female Offender Strategy[i], which has a strong focus on community-based solutions.
At Hope Street, women will be able to meet the requirements of their community sentence in a safe, calm, and nurturing environment, where their children can live with them and they can receive the therapy, treatment and support they need. All the buildings and accommodation at Hope Street has been designed in a trauma-led way so everything from the lighting to the decoration and the security, has been built to help women who have experienced trauma to heal and recover. It will also help women and their children reintegrate into society. There is a coffee shop at the hub which is open to the public and a creche for the women, so they have affordable childcare.
Southampton was carefully selected as a location. Not only are there no prisons for women in Hampshire, but because Southampton is where a third of offences occur. Of the 877 women arrested in Hampshire between 1st November 2018 and 31st October 2019, 33% were from Southampton.
As there are no prisons in the area, women from Southampton who receive a custodial sentence are sent out of area, often more than 60 miles away from their home, making it very difficult for their families to visit them[ii]. Hope Street will provide a welcome alternative. Lady Edwina explained that to get planning permission, the charity went through a rigorous consultation exercise involving every part of the justice system – from the police to the courts and councils.
The project has been funded by investors, by Lady Edwina herself and through social investment – with a recent £380k loan from Social and Sustainable Capital (SASC), which has enabled it to add move on accommodation options at Hope Street. Five self-contained flats have been developed to provide move on accommodation for women, as well as a large restorative outdoor space.
Lady Edwina has devoted her 23-year career to prison reform. She has worked in over 18 prisons in the UK and spent time with prisoners and seen the need for prison reform close up. She is an investor and the founder of The Clink Charity, which cuts reoffending rates by educating and providing prisoner with formal qualification and running a successful network of restaurants in prisons which are run by inmates.
Speaking passionately about the issues in the criminal justice system for women she says, “I have seen the issues close up. The number of women sent to prison for minor offences is disproportionately high: only one in five women will have committed a violent offence compared to one in three in the general prison population[iii]. Most would be better serving community sentences, but there’s a real lack of facilities to support women including suitable safe housing for them and their children. You can’t simply provide a roof over their heads; it’s not enough. They need to be safe and have the right support – the lack of suitable options is why so many end up in prison. The lack of safe move on accommodation for women coming out of prison is another challenge and can lead to women reoffending or having no alternative but to go back to prison.”
Lady Edwina says most women in prison will have experienced trauma in their lives: seven in ten have suffered domestic violence and over half have experienced emotional, physical, or sexual abuse during childhood. 67% of women in prison said they have a mental health problem, and many experience unemployment or homelessness on release.
One Small Thing facilitates and fund trauma-informed and gender-responsive programmes for the prison and community sectors that consider the individual caught in a cycle of crime and incarceration and aim to humanise their process.
Hope Street aims to be a centre of excellence in the rehabilitation of female offenders. All the services and support offered to women are based on the very best thinking on rehabilitation and on best practice from women’s centres across the UK, as well as recommendations from the government’s Prison Strategy. This marks the first step in what Lady Edwina says is a revolution to transform the criminal justice system for women.
Image credit: Lena Samuels