Page last updated at 23:14 GMT, Monday, 25 May 2009 00:14 UK

Women's jail worst for self-harm

View of a woman prisoner in her jail cell through the cell door window
Cornton Vale is Scotland's only women's prison

Self-harm in Scotland's only female prison has risen dramatically in the past four years, figures from the Liberal Democrats show.

Last year, 64 prisoners at Cornton Vale self-harmed, a figure which includes attempted or planned cases.

The total is the highest of all of Scotland's prisons, and is up from seven in 2004.

Kilmarnock Prison, which is twice the size of Cornton Vale, had the second highest figure with 38.

Lib Dem justice spokesman Robert Brown said the number of young offenders harming themselves - 21 of the 64 cases last year - was "particularly worrying".

Mental health

Information about the extent of mental health problems within prisons needed to be better recorded, Mr Brown said.

"We know that self harming is closely linked to mental health problems and we know that that many of the inmates in Cornton Vale struggle with addictions and mental health problems," he said.

"The true scale of the problem is unknown because mental health problems are not officially recorded. This needs to change."

Mr Brown said he was meeting the new governor to see the scale of the problems at Cornton Vale.

A Scottish Prison Service spokesman said: "Following years of unreliable data SPS set out clearer definitions to be used to report the issue of self-harm in the prison population. As a result reports of self harm are up primarily for this reason."

He added: "There are more women in prison and the population has increased significantly in the last few years. Many are vulnerable and as a result self-harming is an issue which SPS is increasingly required to consider along with other areas of care."

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