Page last updated at 00:37 GMT, Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Call for smaller jails for young

Cornton Vale near Stirling
Young offenders at Cornton Vale need a specialist unit, said the report.

The conditions in which young female inmates are held have been criticised by the chief inspector of prisons.

Dr Andrew McLellan contrasted the conditions for young women at Cornton Vale with those of young male offenders held in units at Greenock and Perth.

He said conditions for young men were good but young women were held alongside adult female offenders, with facilities and food which were poor.

Dr McLellan said the small, specialist units for the men were more successful.

The report looked at young offenders held in adult establishments.

It said young male offenders were kept separate from adults, while the young women live with adult offenders.

Dr McLellan said the young men had good facilities, food and training opportunities, while the female offenders in Cornton Vale, near Stirling, had very little to do.

He said: "Almost every young man we spoke to was extremely positive about the circumstances of their imprisonment in Greenock or in Perth; hardly a single complaint."

"Almost every young woman we spoke to was deeply negative about her experience of imprisonment; hardly a single good thing to say about the whole experience."

The report said overcrowding was the reason why young offenders had to be moved into adult jails.

Polmont Young Offenders Institution, near Falkirk, holds 100 male prisoners more than its design capacity.

Dr McLellan said the irony was that overcrowding had allowed the establishment of satellite halls where prisoners worked hard or attended education classes and benefited from separate staff.

That did not happen at Cornton Vale, and the report said there was no-one within the Scottish Prison Service whose sole responsibility was the management and care of young women.

Dr. Andrew McLellan
Dr McLellan called for better facilities for young female offenders.

Kate Donegan, governor of Perth Prison, where 83 young offenders are housed in Friarton Hall, said its success could be measured in the way the boys behaved, the number who took up education and work skills courses, and their behaviour while in the unit.

She said her unit, and the one at Greenock Prison, were on a "human scale," compared to the much larger, overcrowded facility at Polmont, Scotland's main institution for young offenders.

The chief inspector's report called on the Scottish Prison Service to examine whether more could be done at Polmont to create smaller units with a corresponding sense of community and belonging.

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