Concern at rising number of women in prison system
THERE has been a "startling growth" in the number of women in Scotland’s prison system, a new report has revealed.
An inspection of Cornton Vale, Scotland’s only all-female jail, has shown the number of inmates is significantly higher than it was two years ago - despite the transfer of almost 50 women to another prison.
At the time of the inspection the prison held 340 women, compared with just 137 in 1990.
The report by HM Inspectorate of Prisons also reveals about 80 per cent of women in the Stirling jail have a history of mental illness. Many others have problems with drug abuse.
Andrew McLennan, HM chief inspector of prisons, said the number of women being admitted to the prison with mental health problems, addiction problems and a history of being abused was "very alarming".
"Cornton Vale bears the brunt of the rapid increase in the number of women prisoners in Scotland," states the report.
"The number of prisoners in Cornton Vale is significantly higher than it was in 2002, despite the fact that 48 prisoners have been transferred to Greenock.
"This represents a startling growth in the number of women prisoners in Scotland."
He said the issue of mental health was particularly noticeable at the jail.
"Some 80 per cent of prisoners in Cornton Vale have a history of mental illness. Medical records confirm the impression formed during even a short inspection, that some of these women are very disturbed indeed."
He said the statistics made "grim reading", with over 90 per cent of admissions having addiction problems and over 60 per cent with a history of having been abused.
Noting that pressure on staff at the facility was "considerable", he added: "Cornton Vale continues to provide care for a number of very damaged women.
"There is a sense of direction but the prison cannot be expected to cure mental illness or overcome the effects of abuse."
The report describes a follow-up inspection carried out in February this year.
It reveals there have been no suicides since the inspection carried out in 2002 and it praises the prison for improving its care of vulnerable prisoners.
Responding to the report, Annabel Goldie, the Conservative’s justice spokeswoman, said: "This is a wretched saga of misery. I am alarmed by the report that 90 per cent of the women admitted to Cornton Vale have addiction problems.
"Since many of them will have been given a prison sentence by a District Court, it exposes faults in the system."
Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP’s justice spokeswoman, added: "This is the next in a long line of reports that show there are severe problems at the jail."
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