New 'custom made' women's prison to be built in Scotland

Cornton Vale Scotland's current women-only prison is Cornton Vale

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A new "custom made" women's prison is to be built in Scotland, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill has revealed.

Plans for the new facility came in response to a damning report in April by the Commission on Women Offenders.

A number of improvements will now take place including making the current women's prison, Cornton Vale, better.

The new women-only jail will be built in Inverclyde and a new specialist unit for women will be set up inside Edinburgh prison.

The report by the commission, which was chaired by Scotland's former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, concluded that Corton Vale should be demolished and replaced with a smaller high security jail.

it said that Scotland's criminal justice system needed a "radical reworking" if the number of female offenders was to be reduced.

It also recommended new powers for the police to issue conditional cautions and for judges to be able to combine custodial and community sentencing.

In response to the report, Mr MacAskill asked the Scottish Prisons Service to look at the issue of women's prisons.

The minister has now outlined work across 17 key areas, including;

  • proposals to develop a new jail in Inverclyde as a "custom made" national prison for women offenders and to build a new specialist unit for women at HMP Edinburgh
  • the first allocations being awarded from Reducing Reoffending Change Fund (RRCF) to support mentoring programmes for women offenders across Scotland
  • investment in mental health services - both in prisons and the community - to help address the disproportionately high number of mental illnesses amongst offenders
  • the Scottish Prison Service piloting a new three-day induction package for staff working with women offenders, which commenced in August
  • and work to improve the conditions at HMP Cornton Vale immediately, including equipping it with video conference facilities to minimise the time that women offenders have to spend travelling to court.

Mr MacAskill said: "I agree with proposals that have been submitted by the SPS to develop HMP Inverclyde as a 'custom made' national prison for women offenders. The SPS will now work up detailed proposals on how to deliver these changes and I will be able to provide more information in my next annual report to parliament."

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