Prison for women nears crisis point

Scotland’s only women’s jail is heading for a crisis
after taking on much needier, younger prisoners, according to Clive
Fairweather, chief inspector of prisons.

Cornton Vale Prison in Stirlingshire has experienced a high
level of suicides among young women, particularly remand prisoners.
In Fairweather’s inspection of the prison in 1996, he
reported that many of aspects of the regime were unsatisfactory,
particularly the level of overcrowding and living conditions for
remand prisoners.

In his latest inspection of Cornton Vale, Fairweather notes many
improvements and writes: “We were particularly pleased that remand
prisoners in the recently opened Ross House experience the best of

However, Fairweather remains concerned about the vulnerability
of the women imprisoned and writes: “Their condition is even worse
and they are getting younger and younger. Additionally, on arrival
around 90 per cent have taken illegal substances.”

Increasing numbers of women are being jailed and Fairweather
fears that staff might find themselves once again overwhelmed. The
prison, with a capacity of 178, held 183 prisoners in 1996. This
has steadily risen to 256 by July this year, and the projection for
September is 314. The inspection report concludes: “Some relief is
desperately needed through greater use of alternatives to

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