EFI Statement on Women’s Prison

Edinburgh Women for Independence call for campaign to halt building of huge new women’s prison.

“At their meeting on 17 December 2015 Women for Independence Edinburgh unanimously  opposed the proposal to build a prison for 300-350 women (at Inverclyde) and asks that the Scottish Government implements the recommendations for prisons in the Report of the Commission on Women Offenders (April 2012) to the letter and in the spirit intended.”

Support our petition on 38degrees ‘http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/stopprison’

The meeting was informed, despite widespread recognition that too many women are sent to prison in Scotland, and despite government commitment to reduce the numbers in prison, plans for a large new prison were nevertheless being pursued by the government and the Scottish Prison Service. The proposed prison in Inverclyde is completely against the recommendations of the recent Angiolini Commission Report on the imprisonment of women in Scotland. This report recognised the need for smaller local prisons as well as a specialist small prison for the small number of serious women offender. (see full recommendation below).

Why is the government pursuing a plan for a huge womens prison far from their families and communities when the evidence shows the damage this does to women and to their children?

The decision seems to be based on ‘projections’ for the prison population that regard the steady increase in imprisonment as inevitable rather than something that can be reversed. There is a case made by the prison lobby larger prisons are more ‘cost effective’.

Why should we oppose it?

ALL the evidence is AGAINST the new prison. It flies in the face of every recommendation made in the last 20 years. If it is built it will be filled, not least because it will soak up the revenue spend that could go to funding community alternatives. Community alternatives such as the 418 Turning Point service in Glasgow have been PROVEN to work and they are the services that need expanded to cover all women in need.

Women in prison have high levels of emotional, mental and physical ill health. Many suffer from addiction to legal and illegal substances. Many have histories of childhood abuse, of care, of domestic violence. There is also strong evidence that women are more harshly punished by imprisonment than men because of separation from their children. Children’s suffering at parental imprisonment has been well documented here and internationally.

At a recent meeting to protest the plans for the prison Howard League Scotland expressed the view that as, as a new Cabinet Secretary, Mr Matheson has the opportunity to do the right and effective thing, rather than following through the mistake of building a large women’s prison. The highly respected Professor Andrew Coyle has said this would be “….a tragedy which will be with us for decades to come.”
In recent letter to ‘The National’ Professor Mike Nellis Emeritus Professor of Criminal and Community Justice University of Strathclyde wrote:

“The proposed HMP Inverclyde is absolutely not in the spirit of the Angiolini Commission on women offenders and if we go ahead with it the pursuit of the many better community alternatives that Angiolini outlined will never gain the necessary momentum. Angiolini stirred us to imagine something better than the tried and tested overuse of custody for women offenders, and no decision should be made about a new prison until the Scottish Government has finished its “redesign” of community justice, wherein better ways of meeting the needs of women offenders might be found.”

The Scottish Government is at an important fork in the road, with an active choice to be made on whether to choose the right path. If the wrong path is taken, once committed to building and running a new prison, revenue budgets will be skewed towards prison, the least effective option in reducing re-offending, for many, many years to come.
EWFI believes that the WFI movement across Scotland has the power and the responsibility to call a halt to the scandal of the unnecessary and cruel imprisonment of women. This is something that Scotland has got all the powers it needs to stop and to chose a better path instead. Let’s insist on that.

We are launching a 38degree petition shortly and need to get hundreds of thousands to sign this to let the new Justice Minster know that we are watching and want him to do the right thing.

What can you do?

Please repost this as widely as possible

Talk to your local WFI group and ask them to support the EWFI motion and take action.
Write to Michael Mathieson the new Justice Minister
Write to your local paper

Support the petition we have launched on 38degrees http://you.38degrees.org.uk/p/stopprison
Full text of recommendation of Angolini Commission Report 17 April 2012

Part 7 Prisons

Cornton Vale is replaced with a smaller specialist prison for those women
offenders serving a statutory defined long-term sentence and those who present
a significant risk to the public.

The new national prison for women offenders should include:

• Meaningful and consistent work with sufficient premises to allow that work to
take place and enable all women prisoners to build skills for release and
improve self-esteem and mental health.
• A medical centre with adequate space for group work and individual
appointments to address physical and mental health problems.
• A separate unit for young women.
• A purpose built mother and baby unit.
• A family-friendly visitor centre with an outside play area for children.

Most women prisoners on remand or serving short-term sentences are
held in local prisons to improve liaison with local communities and
reintegration once their sentence is complete.

Background reading

www.scotland.gov.uk Commission on Women Offenders Final Report 2012
www.scccj.org.uk -pages on womens offending, prison population, children, families and young people

Comments (3)

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  1. Bothy Basher says:

    ”The decision seems to be based on ‘projections’ for the prison population that regard the steady increase in imprisonment as inevitable rather than something that can be reversed.”

    Yes and this is the US experience, where astonishing numbers of people are jailed. It’s their fault of course for not being able to afford top lawyers. Neocons tell us that poverty is a choice and Tories and Labour will give us that choice of course.

    We are, under the Tories and timid Labour, going down the barbaric route of penal policy.

    And we voted for this! You couldn’t make it up!

  2. MGF says:

    Penal policy is a devolved matter. Always has been. This policy is entirely in the gift of the Scottish Goverment. It’s also worth noting that the imprisonment rate is the same in Scotland as it is in England and Wales.

  3. Ian Patterson says:

    Hmm – just lost my last attempt at posting here, so excuse any duplication that emerges elsewhere….

    I was saying, I have a fair bit of ‘staff’ experience in this field, as a former (mental health trained) psychologist in the Scottish Prison Service; and that I thought things were much better when women sentenced to prison were – as far as possible – held locally.

    In that way, there was relatively ready access to families, which is always a good thing; with the potential (more so than latterly, I suspect) to effective mental health care from staff who were also local to the area (and therefore who knew it, and ‘what was being talked about’) – potentially facilitating relatively effective ongoing local mental health care after discharge.

    I wish the promoters of the above endeavour good fortune in it.

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