We can both deliver justice and give women a real chance of rebuilding their lives after punishment

Chris Tchaikovsky – queen of charisma, 6ft tall, witty, clever, the only one of six middle-class sisters to serve time in prison – was, for a period, head of the Happy Firm, a team dealing in stolen travellers’ cheques. Then she went straight, co-founding the charity Women in Prison. She died, aged 57, in 2002, but on Wednesday, her spirit will be at Westminster as women come to lobby their MPs to invest in a different kind of justice – one that works.

A year ago this week, the government published its female offender strategy. It contained much of what Tchaikovsky campaigned for over decades. The strategy says that if justice is to be delivered and reoffending reduced, prison for women, the majority of whom (85%) commit non-violent offences, should be replaced. In its stead should come sentences in the community and intensive support to address the issues common to chaotic lives – addiction, trauma, debt, homelessness. By and large, it’s not posh people who do porridge.

Susan had been in care and sexually abused as a child. Her husband was twice her age and violent

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