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Tuesday, 3 September, 2002, 15:06 GMT 16:06 UK
Courts 'are jailing too many women'
Cornton Vale
Numbers at the jail have risen steadily
Scotland's only women's jail is suffering from overcrowding because courts are ignoring alternatives to prison sentences for petty crimes, according to a watchdog.

The acting convener of one of the visiting committees at Cornton Vale Prison claims that the entire system is being clogged up because women convicted of minor offences are being sent to prison for short sentences.

The jail, near Stirling, is designed to hold 230 prisoners - but the number of inmates has risen steadily to just under 300.


It is actually exacerbating the problem in that it is throwing the lives of the women into greater confusion

Noreen McFarlane
Last month the prison's visiting committee said record numbers of prisoners had restricted inmates' access to sanitation facilities.

In its annual report the committee - which is made up of lay people appointed to ensure prisoners are being well cared for - said this was degrading and an abuse of the women's right to humane treatment.

Now Noreen McFarlane, the acting convener of the under 21s visiting committee, has argued that many of the women should not be in the jail in the first place.

She said the system is being clogged up because courts are not using alternatives to custody, such as drug testing orders and supervision orders.

She argued that this was a waste of taxpayers' money and did nothing to promote law and order.

Greenock Prison
Some inmates are being moved to Greenock Prison
"It is actually exacerbating the problem in that it is throwing the lives of the women into greater confusion," she said.

"We believe that they should be dealt with in a different way through the use of, where necessary, constructive sanctions and through support services to help them through addictive problems."

However, the Scottish Executive said drug testing and treatment orders were being used.

It also pointed out that there were plans to move 50 of the women to Greenock Prison to try to alleviate the problem of overcrowding.

They will be housed under a separate regime which is being established at the men's prison.

The women, who have been described by the prison service as non-vulnerable, are to occupy a hall which has been cleared of male prisoners.

See also:

23 Aug 02 | Scotland
16 Aug 02 | Scotland
03 Apr 02 | Scotland
11 Jun 01 | Scotland
01 Feb 00 | Scotland
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