The imminent closure of HMP Holloway in London, the largest and most iconic women's prison in the UK, and the also notorious HMP Cornton Vale in Scotland, are big strides in the right direction. Let them be strides towards dedicated community based services that understand the realities of women's lives and can make a lasting difference to their children's lives too.
Unsurprisingly, we must look to Silicon Valley for the new, cutting-edge innovation. Or more precisely, to the hills overlooking the bay, which are home to San Quentin, California's oldest prison. To put San Quentin in a UK justice context, it would be a category A prison - it's home to 699 death row inmates.
Prisons are necessary. But we must ensure that we as a society do everything possible to keep people out of prisons in the first place. And we must ensure that truly effective support is available to the vast majority of offenders who would much rather have a regular job to support them and their families. That means that prisons must welcome with open arms those organisations and companies willing to help offenders back in to society.
Over the past few years it has been widely publicised that imprisonment for women should be the last resort and the criminal justice system is not the place to support women who have complex health, social and welfare needs. What will the New Year, new inspector and new era for women in prison mean?
HMP Bronzefield and HMP Peterborough were purpose built private prisons and have run according to PFI contracts since 2005. In general PFI contracts have been criticised for not ensuring value for money and in prisons there have been problems such as a high turnover of staff, low pay and in-experienced staff (Prison Reform Trust, 2005).
If the Chancellor remains committed to getting "the best value for money for taxpayers", he must measure public organisations on their ability to deliver the right sort of outcomes at the right price. Only then will Departments be able to meet the demands of the current Parliament and the upcoming Spending Review.
George Osborne and Michael Gove have shown that they are not averse to adopting Labour's policies where it suits their image as one nation conservatives. We are more than prepared to work cross-party to achieve change, if that is their genuine intent. But as is too often true with this Government, this seems another case of rhetoric not being reflected in reality.