In July 1999 the Catholic Agency for Social Concern (CASC) published a report on Women in Prison. The report was supported by a number of other Christian denominations, and in September 1999, CASC established the ‘Ecumenical Women in Prison Group' (EWPG) as a forum through which churches could together seek to progress the report's recommendations.
EWPG continued to meet throughout 2000 and provided a useful platform for the churches' dialogue with Government on prison issues. The group had two meetings with the Minister for Prisons, Paul Boateng MP, and a number of meetings with the Home Office, Social Exclusion Unit and Prison Service senior civil servants. Discussion with Government is continuing about a range of initiatives, including development of family visiting in prisons; research about child care issues arising from the imposition by courts of unexpected custodial sentences on mothers; extension of the use of restorative justice schemes in prisons; and the possible production of a ‘What can I do?' Video and information pack to encourage greater involvement by Christians in criminal justice issues.
In January 2001 EWPG held a day to evaluate work done to date and to identify a future strategy. It was agreed that EWPG:
- Adopt the name ‘Churches Criminal Justice Forum' to reflect the group's ecumenical nature and ongoing interest in a range of criminal justice issues
- Explores ways in which links with Christian service provider organisations working with prisoners, ex-prisoners and their families could be further developed
- For CCJF to apply to become a network under the auspices of CTBI