Mr Ford was speaking at the Offending Costs Symposium, which involved key organisations supporting women offenders. The Alliance Leader said the issue has been a long-running one for him, as his first visit as Minister was to the Inspire Project, which manages female offenders in the community.
“My Department’s strategy to reduce offending among women highlights the need for a gender-informed approach to rehabilitation and has given a number of positive developments. The Department also guides women towards support services for resettlement among other achievements, including Murray House, the first dedicated step-down facility for female prisoners in Northern Ireland, which allows independent living and supports women moving away from crime.
“Women account for a small percentage of the offending population in Northern Ireland, most of who do not pose a high level of risk to the public. In reality, many women who offend have high levels of need and require support with complex issues such as drug or alcohol misuse, mental ill-health, poor educational attainment or coping with being the victim of abuse.
“I am also pleased to say work continues to establish a new, separate, purpose-built custodial facility for women, subject to the necessary funding being available. That commitment to reform and further research into the services available can only serve to further our understanding of the challenges facing women who offend.”