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Last Updated: Sunday, 15 August, 2004, 09:36 GMT 10:36 UK
Inmate mothers to keep children
Cornton Vale
Cornton Vale is Scotland's only all-women prison
Children up to the age of five are to be kept in prison with their mothers as part of a new experiment at an all-women jail.

The move would see inmates living with their children in independent houses on the edge of the prison grounds at Cornton Vale, near Stirling.

The trial, believed to be the first of its kind in the UK, marks a radical departure from current practice.

Babies are allowed to remain with their imprisoned mothers for up to 18 months.

Cornton Vale governor Sue Brookes said she was aware of the criticism the initiative would attract but added that it was preferable to separating a mother from her child.

Drug testing

Speaking to the Scotland on Sunday newspaper, she said: "What's the point of putting these children into care?

"An open prison is a fairly natural environment.

"I would like the mums to be able to do the same things I can with my children - to play with them and do their homework with them."

Ms Brookes told the paper, women with custody of young children will be able to progress to "independent living units" if the move is approved by a team of social workers and other experts.

The units have a television, kitchen and garden but the mother will have to obey a curfew, report to the prison gate regularly and undergo drug testing.

After the children turn five they would be passed onto other family members or carers until their mother was released.

Cornton Vale has about 340 inmates and is Scotland's only all-women prison.

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