Mothers will be helped to avoid prison
American-style problem-solving courts will be established in Britain in a drive to keep female offenders who are pregnant or have babies out of prison.
Caroline Dinenage, the minister for women prisoners, announced the plan for a pilot across England and Wales. Men could be brought before the courts but they would be aimed at women.
The idea is for judges to take a role in dealing with problems by referring people to treatment for drug and alcohol abuse or any other issue rather than a jail term. The offenders would then come back at intervals before the judges, who monitor their progress.
Ms Dinenage said that with judicial supervision evidence showed that people were less likely to reoffend. She said the plan was supported by a joint working party of officials and judges.
More than 9,000 women were sent to prison last year, most for non-violent offences. About 17,240 children are separated from their mothers by imprisonment. Ministry of Justice figures suggest 100 babies spent time living with their mothers in prisons last year.