Women’s Breakout has a role in developing and co-ordinating the collective voice of the women that our members work with – and providing a platform for that voice to be heard. We have captured key messages from 100 women, twenty of whom were prepared to meet and engage in discussion with twenty decision makers and influencers in respect of the criminal justice system. These ‘Experts by Experience’ were chosen by their peers to tell the decision makers and influencers what matters to them, what helped them, what would have helped them more, what made their circumstances even more difficult. The twenty decision makers and influencers were selected by Women’s Breakout and User Voice and they were invited to think about questions and areas of interest to explore with the ‘Experts by Experience’.
They came together in an Open Space Event on 12 December 2013 where they participated in managed discussions and identifying real solutions that could shape a more effective Criminal Justice System.
The Open Space Event
We started with all participants sitting within a united circle, introductions were made and then participants were invited to bring into the circle agenda items they would like discussed during the event. The experts by experience brought the items forward from their own organisations, where they had been working with other women over a period of a few months. Four or five breakout groups were then facilitated to discuss each area identified in the united circle. We created free flowing discussions between all of the guests and service users and while participants were initially assigned to breakout groups any guest was encouraged to move from group to group. The discussions were recorded on flipcharts and once everyone attending had said everything they wanted to say, in all of the categories they wanted to discuss, recommendations from each flipchart were placed on a discussion wall. All of the attendees are given dot stickers to vote on the recommendations that they thought were most important. The top 5 recommendations were then presented back to the conference.
This was a fantastic, energetic event which was attended by 20 ‘experts’ and a total of around 85 people attended the day. The top 5 recommendations that came out of this event were:
5) Foreign National service user group to be heard by Government
4) Educate Magistrates, awareness raising as part of their training to understand the needs of women
3) Recruiting ex-service users to assist in the transforming rehabilitation programme
2) Probation to expand peer mentoring to assist in the reduction of re-offending
1) Women’s centre in every community
1) Extending peer mentoring to working with people in custody and waiting for them when person arrives in prison for the first time