Cornton Vale closure to begin in summer with inmates move

Cornton Vale in Stirlingshire will be replaced by a smaller, higher quality prison on same site. Picture: PA
Cornton Vale in Stirlingshire will be replaced by a smaller, higher quality prison on same site. Picture: PA
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The closure of Cornton Vale women’s prison will begin this summer with inmates being moved to HMP Polmont.

Justice secretary Michael Matheson said more than half the women serving time at the Stirling jail will be moved over the summer to allow work on a new facility to begin.

Construction of a new national prison at Cornton Vale is not expected to start until the middle of 2018.

Mr Matheson said HMP Polmont in the Falkirk Council area – usually reserved for young male offenders – will offer improved facilities for women in custody.

Scotland has the second highest female prison population in northern Europe.

Mr Matheson said: “Moving a large number of female prisoners from Cornton Vale to newer, improved facilities at Polmont will allow us to decommission parts of the prison and progress with our vision for a smaller, high-quality national prison and five community custody units across the country.

“We are able to include Polmont in our plans thanks to the success we’ve seen in reducing youth offending in Scotland, which is down 70 per cent over the last ten years.

“We hope to replicate this success among women offenders through the smarter approaches we are taking forward.”

While a new unit is to be built at Cornton Vale, many female prisoners will in future be housed in smaller community units closer to their families.

Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: “Cornton Vale has been a serious concern for our service and the justice system for far too long, and it’s truly rewarding that with the government’s support and leadership we are now on the journey to seeing the back of it.

“The move for a large number of women to the fresh and modern conditions at Polmont will in itself be a significant improvement, making things better for them [and]those who will remain at Cornton Vale for now.

“That the move is taking place is rewarding in itself, but it is of course part of the overall plan to provide accommodation for women in custody that is purposefully designed and specifically located to meet their needs and to ensure overall that the system as a whole works much more effectively and efficiently.”