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Last Updated: Thursday, 27 May, 2004, 09:57 GMT 10:57 UK
Problems exposed at women's jail
Cornton Vale
Cornton Vale, which has been highly criticised in the past
Addiction and mental health problems are rife among inmates at Scotland's only women's jail, according to the chief inspector of prisons.

Andrew McLellan draws attention to the vulnerable nature of many female prisoners in his latest report on Cornton Vale near Stirling.

Nine out of 10 women admitted to the jail have addiction problems.

Eight in 10 have a history of mental health problems and 60% have been abused, his report says.

Mr McLellan said: "Medical records confirm the impressions formed during even a short inspection, that some of these women are very disturbed indeed.

"It is unrealistic to expect prison to cure mental illness or to overcome the effects of abuse."

Dr Andrew McLellan
Dr McLellan praised the management's sense of direction
His inspection report does praise management for a "clear sense of direction".

There have been no recent escapes or suicides.

A new addictions strategy is described as "impressive", as is help given to women finding it hard to cope.

But night toilet access has not improved with some prisoners claiming to use sinks.

Population rise

The chief inspector also draws attention to a rapid increase in the female prison population.

At 340, it is now two-and-a-half times higher than in 1990.

The previous inspector of prisons, Clive Fairweather, published a highly-critical report about Cornton Vale in November 2002.

He said overcrowding and a high level of sickness were creating a "recipe for disaster".

The report highlights the view of Anne Owers, chief inspector of prisons for England and Wales.

She said: "It is quite clear that there are people in prison who don't need to be there and who are being made worse by being in prison and who could benefit from other provisions outside prison."

Mr McLellan also questions the suitability of prison, especially for many of the women offenders in Cornton Vale.

"This is not a cross-section of society," he said, "these are very damaged women.

"What will prison do for them?"

Women offered prison alternative
29 Jan 04  |  Scotland
Jail 'breaches human rights'
16 Aug 02  |  Scotland

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