Scottish government urged to implement Angiolini report instead of building new prison

elishangioliniPlans for a new women’s prison have been challenged by a prison reform charity.

A tendering process has begun for the facility, which the Scottish government wants to build in Greenock, Inverclyde.

But campaigners, among them the Howard League for Penal Reform, are against the plans, arguing they are against Holyrood’s own recommendations.

The government established a Commission on Women Offenders (CWO) in 2012 which was led by former lord advocate Elish Angiolini (pictured).

The commission recommended that the majority of female prisoners on remand or those serving short term sentences ought to be held in local prisons; that supported accommodation should be commissioned as an alternative option to custody and, finally, that a number of alternatives to prosecution and the imprisonment of women on remand needs to be developed.

In addition, the commission found the existing women’s prison – Cornton Vale in Stirling ought to be replaced with a smaller, specialist prison for long-term inmates as well as those deemed a significant risk to the public.

Campaigners want to see the government implement the Angiolini report instead of going ahead with a new facility.

A Howard League Scotland spokesperson said: “The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) proposes to replace Cornton Vale with a prison on the outskirts of Greenock to be known as HMP Inverclyde with a capacity to hold 300 women, with the option of increasing this to 350 places.

“The planned prison would hold convicted and remand adult and young offenders of varying legal and security categories and of varying sentence lengths, from short-term to life sentences.

“This represents a clear departure from the recommendation of the CWO report.

“When it comes to prison, size matters.To achieve a more rehabilitative environment in prison, smaller is better.

“More broadly, we argue that the proposal to build a 350-bed new women’s prison is at odds with the Scottish Government’s commendable aspiration to reduce the prison population and that it undermines all the good work the Scottish Government has done and is doing to implement other recommendations contained within the 2012 report.

“There are currently 390 women in prison in Scotland, the majority of whom do not need to be imprisoned for reasons of public protection. Far from aiming for a reduction in the number of women in prison in Scotland, the Scottish Government is planning for an increase in that number.

“There are a number of other options that would better deliver the recommendations in the report of the Commission on Women Offenders, which have not been considered by the Scottish Government.

“These could include, for example, the construction of a new small specialist prison - as envisaged in the CWO report - within the campus of Cornton Vale and surveying the possibility of converting available public or other accommodation, which might be used as local low security units to be managed by SPS or other agencies.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “In line with the recommendations of the commission, we are working closely with local partners to deliver robust community sentences and services that are appropriate for women who offend and to ensure that for those women who are sent to prison, the environment and facilities are suited to their needs.

“The cabinet secretary for justice is considering the final configuration of the new prison estate, as he recently indicated to the justice committee and this consideration remains on-going.”

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