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Last Updated: Thursday, 29 January, 2004, 09:44 GMT
Women offered prison alternative
Woman in turmoil - generic
The centre will tackle the problems which lead to crime
A new centre in Glasgow is set to offer an alternative to prison sentences for female offenders.

It is believed to be the first of its kind in the UK to tackle the drug and alcohol problems which lead to crime.

The initiative is part of the Scottish Executive's efforts to reduce the number of women being sent to jail.

The number of prisoners at Cornton Vale, the only jail for women offenders in Scotland, has risen every year since 1993.

'Petty crimes'

Nearly all the prison's inmates have a history of drug or alcohol problems.

The Scottish Executive has backed the new centre as one alternative to custody.

Centre manager Sophia Young said it was not a soft option but a realistic attempt to break the cycle of addiction and offending which costs society more than the price of rehabilitation.

She also believes that there are too many women in prison in Scotland.

This is no soft option, it's a very tough programme which offenders have to undergo and it aims to reduce the likelihood of reoffending in the future
Scottish Executive
She told BBC Radio Scotland: "Women tend to commit petty crimes within the criminal justice system and yet they seem to get imprisoned more easily for them.

"It would seem that women are charged twice - once for being a women committing the crime and then for the crime they commit.

"Otherwise we wouldn't have a women's prison full of people there for quite low level offences."

The executive is backing the centre to help offenders change their ways for the better.

A spokeswoman said: "This is no soft option, it's a very tough programme which offenders have to undergo and it aims to reduce the likelihood of reoffending in the future."

But the Scottish Tories said the move was "woefully inadequate" and claimed addicts were facing long waits for access to rehabilitation services.

The party's justice spokesperson Annabel Goldie said: "It's not nearly enough. Drug addicts have a stark choice: opt for full and immediate rehabilitation or face the full force of the law.

"That can only be carried out if the rehabilitation centres are available and at the moment some people face a very long wait before they can get rehab."

The 218 Time Out Centre is due to be officially opened by Justice Minister Cathy Jamieson on Friday.


WATCH AND LISTEN
BBC Scotland's Fiona Walker
"The number of women prisoners has risen every year since 1993"



SEE ALSO:
Action urged on overcrowded jails
23 Oct 03  |  Scotland
Courts 'are jailing too many women'
03 Sep 02  |  Scotland


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