Research on women in the criminal justice system

Work with Offenders starts a new series on key independent organisations operating within the criminal justice sector, starting with the Griffins Society.

The Griffins Society was set up in 1965 to provide hostel accommodation for women leaving Holloway prison. The organisation went on to set up the first female-only bail and probation hostel, Kelley House, which is still open today. Over a period of 30 years the society developed five hostels for women offenders in North London often breaking new ground in their care. However, in the late 1990s the organisation transferred there hostels to a larger voluntary sector provider and refocused its work.

The Griffins Society is now best known for its Research Fellowship Programme, launched in 2001. The programme gives practitioners working in criminal justice and allied fields the chance to influence how the criminal justice system works with women and girl offenders as well as those at risk of offending. The Society hopes that through this research it will bring about change in both practice and policy, both locally and nationally. The organisation works closely in partnership with the Institute of Criminology at the University of Cambridge.

The Griffins Society has built a large alliance of stakeholders including academics, practitioners, policymakers, members of the judiciary, penal campaigners and women who have experienced imprisonment – all focused on one objective of improving the position of female offenders.

It is the range of contributors, as well as the female offender focus, which makes the work of the Griffins Society stand out. Contributions from established academics stand alongside research from frontline practitioners with a commitment to women offenders.

The Society publishes research on a wide range of issues affecting women and has a regular output. Research published last year was typical in the spread of issues covered:

  • “A Sense of Place”: a study of accessing housing for women leaving custody.
  • “Outnumbered, locked up and overlooked?” The use of penal custody for girls in England and Wales.
  • “Survived… But at what cost?” A study of women in the criminal justice system who experience domestic abuse.
  • “Too many bends in the tunnel?” Women serving indeterminate sentences of IPP.

But perhaps the best thing about the Society, is that the research opportunities are open to all. Their main principles are:

  • They encourage research on areas where there is a genuine gap in current knowledge.
  • Successful applicants have one year to complete and write up their research which encourages prospective researchers to focus on clear specific questions.
  • Successful applicants receive £1,000 when they start their research and a further £2,000 on completion of the final report. Applicants are expected to produce a 10,000 word report, an Abstract and Executive Summary.
  • There is an emphasis on qualitative rather than quantitative research and research that involves direct engagement with women who are subject of the project.
  • Men are not disqualified from applying.

The Griffins Society is currently accepting applications for its 2020/21 research fellowships. Applications opened on 1 March and don’t close until noon on Friday 29th of May. The Society hasn’t let the coronavirus pandemic get in the way of its programme with interviews for those who are shortlisted taking place by videoconferencing.

If you are interested in undertaking fresh research on girls and/or women in the criminal justice system, do consider applying. You can find all the details on the Griffins Society homepage by clicking here.