Plans for female prison in Inverclyde scrapped

Plans for female prison in Inverclyde scrapped

The justice secretary Michael Matheson (pictured) has announced that current plans for a female prison in Inverclyde will not go ahead.

During a visit to the “218 centre” in Glasgow, he stated that the current plans do not fit with his vision of how to address female offending and that Scotland needs to take a more radical and ambitious approach.

The Scottish government and Scottish Prison Service (SPS) will now undertake a period of engagement with key partners with a view to investing in smaller regional and community-based custodial facilities across the country.

This will also involve looking at international models of best practice.

Mr Matheson has said the revised proposals must include options for smaller regional facilities for female offenders across Scotland and must be more in line with the recommendations of an expert group headed by Elish Angiolini QC.

The proposals will also consider whether there is scope for a smaller facility within the prison estate for the low number of serious female offenders who pose a risk to the community and are given long-term prison sentences.

Mr Matheson said: “As part of an expert group tasked with examining Scotland’s approach to addressing this issue, Dame Elish Angiolini QC made a number of important recommendations, recognising that female offenders have very different needs to their male counterparts and require very specific support.

“We know that women offenders are far less likely to be a danger to the public compared with men. We also know that the families and children of female offenders are more likely to go off the rails and offend themselves if mothers are jailed miles away from home.

“This turns into a vicious circle, affecting future generations, and is doing nothing to address reoffending.

“I believe we should be investing in smaller regional and community-based custodial facilities across the country, rather than a large new prison for women.

“The 218 centre in Glasgow which I visited today provides exactly the type of sophisticated approach that I would like to see as part of our plans for the way in which we look after women in custody.

“Whilst it is for the Courts to decide who receives a custodial sentence, I believe that too many low level female offenders are sent to prison. I want to take a new approach in dealing with these types of offenders and provide them with the best possible support to help turn their lives around.”

The plans will be welcomed by campaigners who have criticised the proposed facility.

Nancy Loucks, chief executive of the charity Families Outside has called for a trial of a system used in Belgium in which women with sentences lasting less than three years are tagged and tracked via GPS and other means.

Martin Cawley, chief executive, Turning Point Scotland said: “Community based alternatives to custody, like 218, support women to make positive changes in their lives by providing a safe, structured environment to help them improve health and wellbeing and address many of the underlying issues that contribute towards their offending, such as substance misuse issues.

“Many of the women using the service have a range of complex needs such as addiction, poor mental or physical health and trauma issues.

“By addressing these underlying issues, it reduces the likelihood of them reoffending in future.”

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