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Women in custody move to Polmont

Published: 11 Feb 2016 09:30
Part of:
Law and order

New plans for Cornton Vale take step forward.

Female prisoners at Cornton Vale prison are to be relocated to HMP Polmont as the first phase of plans to transform the way Scotland deals with women in custody get underway.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said today that more than half of the women currently housed at Cornton Vale will be moved to HMP Polmont over the summer to allow preparatory work to begin. Mr Matheson also confirmed today that construction on the new national prison in Cornton Vale is expected to begin mid-2018.

A large number of spaces are currently available at HMP Polmont thanks to the on-going success in reducing youth reoffending in Scotland which has seen the number of under 18s in custody reduced by 70% over the last ten years.

The move to Polmont's newest accommodation, Blair House, will offer improved facilities for women in custody.

Mr Matheson said:

"This move is another positive step towards our ambitious new approach to transform the way we deal with women in custody. We must be smarter in our approaches so that we can help break the cycle of reoffending.

"Moving a large number of female prisoners from Cornton Vale to newer, improved facilities at Polmont will allow us to decommission parts of the prison and progress with our vision for a smaller, high-quality national prison and five community custody units across the country.

"We are able to include Polmont in our plans thanks to the success we've seen in reducing youth offending in Scotland, which is down 70 per cent over the last ten years. We hope to replicate this success amongst women offenders through the smarter approaches we are taking forward.

"By housing these women in smaller, community bases units closer to their families, alongside providing additional support to address the underlying issues which fuel their crime such as drugs, alcohol or mental ill-health, we can stop them from committing further crimes in the future.

"It is totally unacceptable that we have the second highest female prison population in Northern Europe. This Government continues to prioritise efforts to reduce the number of men and women serving custodial sentences. The actions we are taking are about tackling this problem head on through smarter approaches which can reduce prison numbers in Scotland."

Colin McConnell, Chief Executive of the Scottish Prison Service said

"In parliament last year, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, set out a ground-breaking vision for the care of women in our custody in Scotland. That vision also laid down a huge challenge to me and the Scottish Prison Service to respond in such a positive way that to deliver what he sought, our Service would have to change too.

"The announcement today is a major step along the way to making the Cabinet Secretary's vision a reality and strong evidence that the Scottish Prison Service is up for the challenge he has given us.

"Cornton Vale has been a serious concern for our service and for the Justice system for far too long and it's truly rewarding that with the government's support and leadership we are now on the journey to seeing the back of it.

"The move for a large number of women to the fresh and modern conditions at Polmont will in itself be a significant improvement, making things better for them but also better for those who will remain at Cornton Vale for now. That the move is taking place is rewarding in itself, but it is of course part of the overall plan to provide accommodation for women in custody that is purposefully designed and specifically located to meet their needs and to ensure overall that the system as a whole works much more effectively and efficiently.

"Now that we've really got started, the men and women of the Scottish Prison Service will continue to strive to ensure that what the Cabinet Secretary has demanded gets delivered.

Notes to editors

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson unveiled plans last summer for a new approach to dealing with female offenders, with a move towards custody in the community, backed by targeted support to address underlying issues and action to reduce the numbers of women receiving custodial sentences.

Work is under way on the delivery of a new small national prison with 80 places alongside five smaller community-based custodial units each accommodating up to 20 women across the country, to be operational by 2020. Construction on the new, improved national prison at Cornton Vale is expected to begin in mid-2018 subject to financial and planning approvals.

Some women will remain at Cornton Vale in accommodation which is suitable for their specific needs.

The Scottish Government is currently considering responses to our consultation on strengthening the presumption against short sentences and working with partners on support for robust community sentences and developing alternatives to remand.

Further information on the plans for the female custodial estate can be found here: http://news.scotland.gov.uk/News/New-plans-for-women-in-custody-announced-1a61.aspx

Contact: Leanna MacLarty, 0131 244 3803, Leanna.MacLarty@scotland.gsi.gov.uk