Half the children of female inmates 'will go to jail'
Half the children of women who are jailed in Scotland will end up in prison themselves, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has told MSPs.
He told Holyrood's justice committee crime was going down, yet inmate numbers at Scotland's only women's prison, Cornton Vale, were rising.
The prison governor previously admitted most of those held there should not be in jail.
Former Lord Advocate Elish Angiolini is examining the issue.
Concerns have previously been raised that many female prisoners have such complex problems, often related to alcohol, drugs or domestic violence, that they actually feel safer at Cornton Vale than at home.
A recent follow-up inspection of the prison found that, despite previous warnings, Cornton Vale remained an "unacceptably poor establishment with significant failings across all key areas of provision".
The justice secretary made his comments as he laid out his priorities for justice over the coming parliamentary term.
He told MSPs "We already know that 50% of the children of women who are in Cornton Vale are likely to end up in an institution themselves.
"More youngsters are likely to suffer the imprisonment of a parent than the divorce of a parent, and that has consequences for them."
Mr MacAskill went on: "There's no simple or easy way.
"Some offences, there is no alternative but imprisonment - and that is where they will go.
"But if we can divert others and keep them out of the system to stop them ending up in it for a long, long time, that's a better direction of travel."