WHAT IS THE ISSUE?
In 2004 a statistical bulletin by the Home Office revealed that 64.3% of women released from prison were reconvicted within two years of release. Using an innovative tool enabling women ex-offenders in London to share real advice, inspiring stories and experiences on how to move on, freeasabird tackles some of the key causes of the re-offending cycle.
Coming out of the Criminal Justice System is a huge challenge for women; with 30% losing their home and possessions, many serve a sentence a long way from home with fewer visits than average, leaving them isolated from friends and communities.. This isolation is a key factor in re-offending rates, with research showing that offenders are less likely to re-offend if they can maintain contact with their family and feel part of a community
WHAT DID WE DO?
Media for Development launched freeasabird, a pioneering peer support website for women offenders designed to help break the cycle of re-offending. Complementing existing services, freeasabird uses a digital platform to address women’s reoffending and can be a lifeline to those women who lack the confidence and resources to rebuild their lives. Set within a secure network, freeasabird’s online peer-to-peer support facilities allow women to ask questions, share stories and advice and take part in discussions sharing the ways in which they have rebuilt family relationships, disclosed criminal convictions in job interviews and dealt with drug habits.
A highly comprehensive directory, broken down by local area, lists organisations offering support on key areas of resettlement such as housing, jobs, training or financial support, all of which can be baffling for hundreds of women on release, particularly for those serving short custodial sentences with no face-to-face probation support. Films, audio and blogs showcasing the success stories of women ex-offenders who have turned their lives around will inspire and motivate women to rebuild a life away from crime.
Women ex-offenders have been central to the creation of all aspects of the project, and eighteen women with experience of the Criminal Justice System worked as part of the freeasabird production or online team. creating exclusive film, audio or written content or managing user registration, moderation and maintenance. freeasabird allows women with experience of the Criminal Justice System to register and take part, whilst the directory of resettlement organisations and media content are open to the public.