Rules relaxed on 'double-cuffing' of women prisoners
RELIANCE, the prison escort company, has relaxed security procedures for female inmates following protests about women being "double-cuffed" when about to give birth.
The practice has been singled out for damning criticism in a report by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, Andrew McLellan.
Mr McLellan discovered the "humiliating" practice was routine for inmates taken from Cornton Vale jail to attend medical appointments and children's hearings.
In the year preceding the latest inspection of Scotland's only women's prison, Mr McLellan said two women were "double-cuffed" 30 minutes before they gave birth.
They were handcuffed again as soon as the babies were born.
When a prisoner is double-cuffed, their wrists are cuffed together and they are also cuffed to a Reliance officer.
Mr McLellan said: "There was nothing that caused more concern among staff and prisoners during the inspection than routine double-cuffing."
In his inspection report, published today, he said prisoners found it "very upsetting" to be exposed to the public while double-cuffed, adding that some refused to attend children's hearings because they were ashamed to be seen.
"Staff also told of women refusing to go to hospital for medical treatment when they learned that they would be double-cuffed."
The prison governor, Sue Brookes, later said that double-cuffing had ended for all routine escorts, following a series of complaints from prison staff.
Ms Brookes said: "The prison has been actively involved in promoting what we consider to be standards of best practice in escorting."
Jim Greenoak, the operations director for Reliance, said: "I think the feeling was the female prisoners should be treated differently to men because they are more vulnerable. That is a view we would subscribe to."
In his report, Mr McLellan voiced concern over the steep rise in the number of women in jail, which has doubled in the past ten years from an average of 174 in 1995-96 to a high of 353 in November 2005.
Even more worrying, the chief inspector said, was the growth in the number of women in jail for violent crime.
He said: "I feel very sad that the number of prisoners in Scotland who are women has doubled in the last ten years.
"That's a very bleak prospect for Scotland as a whole, and of course I feel sad for the increasing number of victims of those crimes and for the prisoners themselves."
Mr McLellan said the growing number of prisoners was making it increasingly difficult to meet inmates' needs, and he questioned whether prison was the right place for many female offenders.
He said: "People need to understand the desperate state of women who come into Cornton Vale - the desperate state of their mental health and of their physical health, and their almost universal addiction to hard drugs when they come in."
The report singled out a number of areas for praise, particularly the "remarkable" reduction in self-harming by prisoners.
Meanwhile yesterday, the Howard League for Penal Reform called for a programme of women's prison closures to begin to help to reduce re-offending.
Two-thirds of women released from jail go on to commit offences within two years.
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