The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) has a long history of campaigning for prison and criminal justice reform. Working in the context of this 350 year old Quaker tradition, the Quaker Council for European Affairs is actively involved in promoting respect for human rights. In partnership with the Quaker United Nations Office (QUNO) – Geneva and Quaker Peace and Social Witness (QPSW) in the UK, QCEA has been studying the conditions of women in prison for more than 6 years. Following extensive research into the conditions of women in prison in the member states of the Council of Europe member, QCEA found that in many cases prison sentences do little to reduce the risks of reoffending. At the same time, the social cost to both prisoners and their families is disproportionately high.
Most people leaving prison re-enter society with a drug addiction, few qualifications, and no money and return to the lives within which their crime(s) took place in the first instance. Others will have lost local connections to their family, their job, and their home. In situations such as these the likelihood of repeat offending is high. Acknowledging this, and the fact that the practice of sending individuals to prison frequently leaves the needs of the victims, the offenders themselves, and their respective communities unmet, QCEA has undertaken research into the uses of alternatives to imprisonment sentences in Council of Europe member states. This report is the result of this research.