Swindon Women’s Centre celebrates turning lives around

Jun 8 2016

Speakers at Swindon Open Day2

At the end of May, we came together with funders, businesses, supporters and clients to celebrate our recent award at The Howard League for Penal Reform. Our Sex Worker Outreach Project in Swindon came runners-up in the prestigious women’s category. At the helm are Sue Lee, now Manager at the Centre, and Lou Kuklinski of Wiltshire Police. Every week, they go out in their van to patrol Swindon’s red light district in order to get women into their care instead of putting themselves in danger by sex working. Sue explained more about this pioneering work: ‘I believe passionately that these really vulnerable women at risk need a voice. They are under the radar; they are extremely vulnerable to physical and sexual violence and the main reason they’re out there is because they have a Class A drug addiction.’

Supported by the Wiltshire Police and Crime Commissioner, Angus Macpherson, Sue and Lou have helped to put men exploiting these women behind bars for a total of 20 years. The two women have got seven women into recovery in the last seven years. They said that they will never give up and are determined to get more and more sex working women into detox, rehab and full recovery.

We were praised by the CEO of The Howard League, Frances Crook, for bringing hope and helping so many women live the life they want to live rather than the one to which they’ve been condemned. She reproached the government’s ‘shameful’ approach and summarised the way so many women are let down by the criminal justice system.

Vicky Pryce, economist and author of Prionomics: Behind Bars in Britain’s Failing Prisons, gave an impassioned plea for prison to be the last resort for female criminals. She admitted that some people deserve to be behind bars. As the ex-wife of former cabinet minister Chris Huhne, she is the first to understand, having served a sentence for perverting the course of justice for taking her husband’s driving points. Whilst at Holloway Prison and East Sutton Park Open Prison, she got to know her fellow-prisoners. Many had been through the care system and had been driven to crime by drug addiction, trauma and abuse. Separated from their children, many had become depressed. She believes passionately that education and employability are the key to turning lives around. Vicky praised the work of The Nelson Trust, stating how much we are ‘really making a difference to the lives of women.’ She called on the government to stem the flow of women into prison by increasing funding for women’s centres across the UK.