A CHARITY dedicated to women prisoners which recently opened a shop in Tunbridge Wells is now inviting potential employers and mentors to a conference in Tonbridge.
The #SheMatters Criminal Justice Conference has been in the planning since lockdown, but is finally set to take place at the River Centre in Tonbridge on October 21.
With sessions about young adults, families and accommodation, the conference is aimed ‘joining up’ all the issues affecting women in the criminal justice system, a spokeswoman for organisers Imago Dei Prison Ministries told the Times.
Women make up only 4 per cent of the prison population, but in 2020, 58 per cent of their sentences were for less than six months.
Yet even short sentences matter, with as many as 73 per cent of women reconvicted within a year of leaving prison following a sentence of less than 12 months.
Employment is one of the missing links reconnecting women to life after a conviction, one of the factors prompting Imago Dei to set up the #SheMatters shop in Tunbridge Wells.
“We support women not only in prison but also on leaving prison and in the community,” said the spokeswoman.
“Women in particular really struggle to get into employment after gaining a criminal record. There is a stigma. Part of the job of the shop is to help provide women with opportunities to develop their skills.
“#SheMatters has grown to become our key project that offers the local community a variety of ways to support women in the criminal justice system.
“This includes facilitating life skills courses in the community for women on probation, working with businesses to bridge the gap between potential employers and women leaving prison with our #SheMatters Employment Network,” the spokeswoman said.
For companies interested enough to take the next step ‘there will be chances for employers to network at the conference as well’.
Speakers include a deputy prison governor, prison managing chaplain, senior probation officer and various charitable organisations.
“The location in Tonbridge will allow prison and probation officials, charities and welfare organisations from Kent, Surrey, Sussex and London to meet in the middle,” added the spokeswoman.
The #SheMatters Criminal Justice Conference will be held at the River Centre, Tonbridge, on October 21, 9am-5pm. Tickets from Eventbrite. Companies can join the employers’ network at shematters.uk/employmentnetwork