Evaluation of Sixteen Women's Community Justice Services in Scotland - Research Findings

This document presents the findings of an evaluation of sixteen women’s community justice services in Scotland. The evaluation was conducted by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Social Services (IRISS) during 2014-15.

Main Findings

  • WCJSs were developed to be appropriate to the local context and therefore services across Scotland took many different forms, beyond the notion of a 'women's centre' as recommended by the Commission on Women Offenders.
  • While WCJSs worked with women across multiple stages of the criminal justice system, services mostly supported and/or supervised women serving community sentences.
  • Multi-disciplinary professionals co-located or linked with WCJSs enabled women to access practical support for multiple issues in one place. This required commitment and flexibility from services and organisations to be open to new ways of working.
  • This holistic approach offered a genuinely enhanced service as an alternative to traditional approaches to the supervision of women. This meant that practitioners worked with women as individuals with strengths, needs, and aspirations, rather than focusing on them simply as 'offenders'.
  • WCJSs prioritised support that helped women achieve stability in their lives, promoted their readiness to change (e.g. by developing confidence and problem-solving skills), and addressed immediate practical needs (e.g. finance, housing); these include factors that are known to contribute to desistance.
  • Women tended to make most progress in short-term outcomes, including problem solving, engagement with services, housing, willingness to work on problems, mental health, and substance misuse (within an average five-month period).
  • Less progress was observed in addressing other (longer-term) outcomes, including purposeful and rewarding activities (e.g. ways to spend spare time, work, volunteering or training), family relationships, and changing pro-criminal views (albeit held by a small proportion of women).
  • The research suggests that future initiatives might usefully consider developing provision for women that includes more purposeful or rewarding activities at an earlier stage and forging links in their community; helping women to cope with the placement of children into care and support to regain and/or maintain custody (where appropriate); as well as continuing to develop diversion and throughcare services.
  • Overall, the findings provide a strong rationale for the continued development of WCJSs that adopt holistic, gender-responsive, and flexible practices to address the underlying drivers of women's offending behaviour.


Email: Tamsyn Wilson

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