BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Arabic Spanish Russian Chinese Welsh

 You are in: UK: Scotland
Front Page 
Northern Ireland 
UK Politics 
Talking Point 
In Depth 

Commonwealth Games 2002

BBC Sport

BBC Weather

Thursday, 6 September, 2001, 15:33 GMT 16:33 UK
Prison report calls for custody alternative
Cornton Vale prison
Cornton Vale was said to have changed for the better
Options other than custody for female offenders must be provided, according to Scotland's chief inspector of prisons.

In a report about Scotland's only women's jail, Clive Fairweather said he was "deeply concerned" by the increasing number of prisoners from across the country.

He praised improvements at Cornton Vale, near Stirling, but said prisoners are younger and more drug dependent than in the past.

Mr Fairweather said the prison was being used as a "casualty clearing station, psychiatric ward and addictions clinic".

Clive Fairweather
Clive Fairweather: Mixed praise with concerns

He told BBC Scotland that about 50% of the female prison population could be dealt with by different measures.

The chief inspector of prisons said electronic tagging, which costs less than a third of imprisonment, was one option.

Mr Fairweather carried out his investigation in June, but the full written report on his conclusions has only now been released.

A spate of suicides five years ago brought notoriety to Cornton Vale, where staff were struggling to meet the daily needs of prisoners.

Improvements, especially in the remand hall, are described as quite exceptional.

However, Mr Fairweather said women arriving at Cornton Vale are in a worse condition than five years ago, with problems of abuse and poverty.

He said: " In 1996 we found the conditions at Cornton Vale to be wholly inadequate and inappropriate.

"The combination of a range of difficulties had become overwhelming. This latest inspection showed a tremendous range of improvements, with all of the criticisms of our last inspection report having been addressed.

Bill Aitken
Bill Aitken: "Soft option"

"What has not changed is the condition of the women arriving at the prison gates. If anything their condition is even worse and they are getting younger and younger.

"I am deeply concerned about the growing influx of more and more prisoners from all over Scotland."

Mr Fairweather said credible and reliable options other than custody must be made available.

Susan Matheson, director of the charity Sacro, said ministers promised three years ago to reduce the number of women being jailed, but more radical action was needed.

But Scottish Tory justice spokesman Bill Aitken MSP said: "No woman is sent to prison by a Scottish court without good reason.

"Frequently they have committed multiple offences whilst on bail despite having been placed on probation and offered the very same 'rigorous treatment programme' of which Jim Wallace speaks.

"Does the executive ever think the public interest and the victims of crime, or is it solely concerned with providing a soft option for criminals?"

Drug treatment orders

Meanwhile, the Scottish Executive has announced that seven more sheriff courts will offer drug rehabilitation to offenders as an alternative to custodial sentences.

Justice Minister Jim Wallace announced an extension to the pilot scheme for treating drugs offenders, introduced in Glasgow and Fife last year.

Drug Treatment and Testing Orders will be available at courts in the local authority areas of Edinburgh, Dundee, Perth and Kinross, Angus, Renfrewshire, East Renfrewshire and Inverclyde from Spring 2002.

Under the scheme offenders are placed on specialist programmes lasting between six months and three years.

If they fail to comply then they can face alternative sentences.

The new schemes are expected to cater for an additional 200 offenders in 2002-2003.

Inspector of Prisons Clive Fairweather
"About 50% need to be in prison, with the others it is a moot point."
Reevel Alderson reports
"The courts need to be sure alternatives to jail are viable."
See also:

11 Jun 01 | Scotland
Prison turnaround is praised
22 May 01 | Scotland
Prison comes under spotlight
01 Feb 00 | Scotland
'Justice' plea over prison suicide
02 Sep 99 | Scotland
Call for new teen offenders strategy
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Scotland stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Scotland stories