A safe, just and equal world for women

Mothers and criminal justice

A great number of women involved in offending have complex needs, including having had experienced domestic abuse and are often mothers.

There is often a profound stigma felt by many children whose mothers have been involved in the Criminal Justice System. Every child facing these traumatic circumstances should have their best interests taken into account in the decisions affecting their mothers. Many children often feel overlooked, unsupported and judged.

Advance’s Minerva services work in partnership to improve outcomes for mothers and break the cycle of re offending, ensuring that their children’s best interests are served and prevent families breaking down to reduce intergenerational harm.

What we know...

Short prison sentences can be particularly damaging for mothers and their children.

1 in 5 women were the sole carer prior to imprisonment

An estimated ¼- ½ of children have been exposed to domestic abuse

17,000 children are affected by their mothers imprisonment each year


95% of children whose mothers are imprisoned had to leave their homes

30% of all female offenders had dependent children.

58% of women with dependent children had been living with these children prior to sentencing.


Across our Minerva service the mothers we support

of children whose mothers are imprisoned had to leave their homes
0 %
Nearly a quarter had children in local authority care
0 %
reported problematic substance misuse
0 %
reported problematic use of alcohol
0 %
reported a physical disability
0 %
reported learning difficulties
0 %
had health and well being issues
0 %

'A place to go like this' report

The findings of this report are a call for action by government and all agencies concerned with women and girls in the criminal justice system. Systemic change and investment is urgently needed to improve the response to mothers involved in offending, often survivors of domestic abuse themselves, and break the cycle of violence and harm to them and their children.

Advance aims for this report to act as a catalyst for change and inform next steps, including:

  • Adopting a joined-up whole-system approach and providing the investment needed by all agencies involved with mothers who offend or are at risk of offending, to break the cycle of harm to them and their children, including youth violence and exploitation.
  • Investment in women’s centres, safe places to go in the community where women can access the support they need, to address underlying trauma and rebuild their lives – everyone needs ‘A place to go like this’ as Rachel, a woman with experience of abuse and offending, said.
  •  A requirement for a gender-specific criminal justice response, including specialist women’s courts where all professionals understand the specific drivers of women’s offending and the devastating impact custodial sentences have on children, as a result of their primary carer’s imprisonment.
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