Women’s campaign group the Fawcett Society has criticised a Prison Service decision to turn Cookham Wood women’s prison, Kent, into a young offender institution for boys by early 2008.
The Youth Justice Board said the decision, which followed talks between the YJB and the Prison Service, was designed to tackle population pressures among boys in London and the South East.
But the Fawcett Society said that the decision would result in female prisoners being scattered across the country with little consideration being given to their needs.
Katherine Rake, director of the society, said: “Vital rehabilitation work will be interrupted, increasing the risks of re-offending and putting society at risk.
“Instead of these last-ditch attempts to find space in an overcrowded system, the government needs to prioritise developing effective alternatives to custody for women.”
But the YJB said many young offenders in London and the South East were held long distances from home or had to be transferred between different YOIs to make places available. The prison will provide space for between 153 and 163 boys.