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A women's building: Honouring the past, serving today’s needs

By Maureen Mansfield

A Women’s Building in New York is being developed following the closure of Bayview Women’s Prison. We have a similar potential here to build a Women’s Building on the site of Holloway prison – and a recent meeting shows why a centre to house specialized women’s services is greatly needed.

In partnership with the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies project, A Community Plan for Holloway, Women’s Resource Centre held a roundtable meeting bringing together relevant women’s sector organisations to discuss the closure of HMP Holloway and the potential opportunities.

Many of those present described difficulties they are facing keeping their services open in Islington. Some organisations that have delivered services in Islington for over 30 years are being forced to move out of the borough due to rising costs. Organisations that provided support in Holloway have faced additional costs as they attempt to replicate provision in HMP Downview.

The challenges include rising costs of rent, and finding suitable places for women’s only services that offer appropriate space for their trauma informed approach.

Holloway’s location meant that there were so many organisations bringing their support inside the walls, and integrating their services into the life of the prison.

There was a strong desire to embrace the opportunity to make meaning of the site as a former women’s prison, as a historic location in the history of women’s rights, and as the foundation of some of the organisations involved. Ultimately the Women’s Building would develop a way to become more self-sustaining than the current reliance on short term, precarious local and government funding.

Maureen Mansfield is a Partnership Service Manager at the Women’s Resource Centre, a leading national umbrella organisation for the women’s sector in the UK. For more information please contact maureen@wrc.org.uk. Parts of this article first appeared on the website of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, a partner in Reclaim Holloway.

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