Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez has called for a pilot scheme that would see new residential women’s centres across England and Wales replace plans for community prisons to be based in Devon and Cornwall.

Justice Secretary David Gauke announced on Wednesday a new strategy to ‘break the cycle’ of female offending – placing community services at the heart of the government’s response.

The Ministry of Justice has committed to investing in a ‘residential women’s centre’ pilot in at least five sites across England and Wales, and Ms Hernandez has called for one of the centres to be based in Devon and Cornwall.

It comes as currently any women from Devon, Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly who are sentenced to time in prison are remanded in Gloucestershire.

Ms Hernandez, welcoming the announcement, said: ““I am really excited that the MOJ have announced plans to trial five residential centres for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, educational support and finding work and this is particularly focused for women.

“It is clear that short custodial sentences are not working for women – they can exacerbate the social and psychological problems known to underpin female offending.

“Evidence shows that the reasons for female offending are different, and the types of offences that women commit are different so we need to tailor our approach accordingly.

“The women who enter our prisons have often suffered some kind of adverse childhood experience and are more than twice as likely to need mental health support as their male counterparts.

“This announcement from the MoJ is welcome and I will be writing to David Gauke, Minister of Justice, to ask that one of these pilot centres comes to our region.

“Currently any women from Devon, Cornwall or the Isles of Scilly who are sentenced to time in prison are remanded in Gloucestershire – for many this is hundreds of miles from home.

“We know that having a support network is vital for the successful rehabilitation of offenders and this distance, and the time and cost associated with the travel between, can make it incredibly difficult for offenders and their support system to stay connected. And the aim that we don’t want them to reoffend when they are released, we need to make sure that this is better done.

“Meeting the needs of the women in our communities earlier would result in long term cost savings and fewer victims through breaking the cycle of reoffending.”

She added that her office are also producing a women’s strategy locally to help them get back on the straight and narrow.

Making the announcement, Mr Gauke said: “Many of the women serving custodial sentences are extremely vulnerable and have experienced abuse themselves. Evidence clearly shows that putting women into prison can do more harm than good for society, failing to cut the cycle of reoffending and often exacerbating already difficult family circumstances.

“While public protection will always be our priority, and prison must remain the only option in the most serious cases, I want that to be a last resort.

“That’s why today we are announcing a step change in our approach to rehabilitating women offenders – we will shift from prisons to women’s centres which focus on the full range of support services beginning with five pilots across England and Wales.

“I want this strategy to be the start of a shift in attitudes to the way we support female offenders with greater emphasis on community provision. This ultimately benefits everyone – offenders, their families and the wider community as we see fewer victims and cut the cost of reoffending.”

This announcement is part of a wider national women’s strategy aimed at reducing reoffending.

As well as the new pilots for five residential women’s centres across England and Wales, a greater focus on innovative community provisions to keep women away from prison was announced, and that the government will not pursue plans to build community prisons for women and that Lord Farmer will conduct an in-depth review into family ties – around a quarter of female offenders have dependent children