Cleveland’s commitment to support women at risk of entering the criminal justice system has been highlighted in a national report on reducing re-offending.
The latest edition of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioner’s In Focus report features Information about the Divert. In Focus is circulated to key partners including the Home Office.
Divert aims to divert first-time, low-level offenders away from the criminal justice system and towards support services.
The OPCC delivers the project in partnership with Durham Tees Valley Community Rehabilitation Company (DTVCRC) and Cleveland Police.
It does so by identifying and addressing offenders’ needs and vulnerabilities, which may have initially led to the offending behaviour.
Sometimes work involves signposting or making referrals to specialist support, including longer-term help for mental health and substance misuse issues.
In return, the offender does not receive a criminal record and is encouraged to enter into a more positive future.
185% Success Rate
The scheme has been recognised for its gender-informed approach with vulnerable females and was shortlisted for the Howard League for Penal Reform’s Community Awards in 2019.
Since December 2018, more than 180 women have been referred to Divert. Many have complex needs and often they have not previously accessed support services or sought treatment for them.
Analysis has found that women who complete the Divert programme are 185 per cent less likely to re-offend in compared to women, who did not engage.
Participant now “living not existing”
Divert helped a mother-of-six from Redcar to make a number of positive changes to her life, which mean that she now feels like she’s “living not just existing.”
At her lowest ebb, the 38-year-old had lost her home, her children and her self-worth. She didn’t eat properly, barely washed, was injecting heroin and resorting to sex work to fund her habit. She felt like she was “dead inside.”
The woman said: “My mum used to say she looked in my eyes and there was nothing there.”
Last year, police found drugs in her bag during a routine search and she was referred to Divert.
At first, she found talking “too painful” and almost walked out. However, she stuck with it.
After seven months, she is now having regular counselling sessions, rents her own flat and is drug-free. She is also beginning to mend some of the fractured relationships within her family. A placement has led to the promise of supervisory training and paid work.
She said: “I just can’t praise the scheme enough. Divert helped by bringing everything together.”
Specialist interventions to help women
Acting Police and Crime Commissioner Lisa Oldroyd said: “Divert has allowed us to deliver specialist interventions for women with underlying issues. This has been through a person-centred support programme designed to address problematic areas and help them turn their lives around”
Darren Redgwell, Head of Cleveland Probation Delivery Unit at
DTVCRC, said: “Females who offend often have high levels of vulnerability. This can drive offending behaviour. If left unaddressed, it can prevent them breaking free from a cycle of re-offending behaviour – creating more victims and more harm. Divert identifies and addresses the complex needs of females. Our officers provide specialist support to females at risk of sexual exploitation, involved in sex work, other specific gender-based vulnerabilities or at risk of honour-based violence or forced marriage.
“Over the last year we have seen some significant positive outcomes with females who would have otherwise entered the criminal justice system making an already difficult journey towards rehabilitation and social inclusion even harder with the stigma and bias a criminal record attracts.”
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Probation praised Divert in a report as:
“an innovative way of tackling crime, addiction and preventing re-offending”
To read the full story featured in In Focus, go to: https://www.apccs.police.uk/campaigns/pccs-making-a-difference/