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Cornton Vale Prison

27/05/2004

Cornton Vale Prison has borne the brunt of the rapid increase in the number of female prisoners in Scotland, according to the latest report from the Chief Inspector of Prisons published today.

Dr McLellan's report on Cornton Vale Prison and YOI describes a follow up inspection in February 2004 and draws attention to:

• The startling growth in the number of female prisoners since 2002

• The alarming number of women admitted with mental health problems, addiction problems and/or a history of being abused

However, the report also welcomes:

• The attractive new Independent Living Unit

• Steps taken to reduce the dangers of self harm

• And the comprehensive and impressive addictions strategy now in place.

Dr McLellan said:

"Staff at Cornton Vale are putting in a great deal of energy into promote change. New day care provision with mental health support in Ross House, a new addictions strategy, the refurbishment of Younger Hall and of some of Peebles Hall and the development of the Links Centre are all beginning to make their marks on the prisoners' lives. A new Independent Living Unit, which opened just before the last inspection, provides extremely good living conditions for women who have progressed through the prison. It also provides opportunities for prisoners to work outside the prison.

"However, 90 per cent of admissions have addictions problems, 80 per cent have a history of mental illness and over 60 per cent have a history of being abused. The question has to be asked: what will the prison do for them? A prison is not a psychiatric hospital and it is not an addiction treatment centre. Nevertheless, the developments in meeting the needs of these women when they are admitted to Cornton Vale are impressive. And all of this has to be put in the context of rapidly increasing prisoner numbers. In 1990 there were 137 women prisoners in Scotland. At the time of this inspection there were 340.

"The last inspection report drew attention to the difficulties of toilet access in some parts of the prison at night, and sometimes during the day. This situation is as bad now as it was then. In parts of the prison over a quarter of women who seek access to a toilet at night will have to wait for more than 30 minutes. Some have to wait considerably longer. This needs to be addressed. Similarly, the quality of food and provision of a productive regime for Young Offenders are in need of attention.

"Overall, however, there is a clear sense of direction in the management of Cornton Vale and progress has been made in a number of areas since the last inspection."

Scotland's prisons are subject to regular inspection. A full inspection normally takes place every three years and examines all aspects of the establishment. Follow up inspections are carried out in years where a full inspection does not take place and these examine points of note raised in previous inspections, examine significant changes since then, and explore issues arising from the establishment's own assessment of itself.

The inspection of Cornton Vale was a follow up inspection with a focus on conditions in which prisoners live and on the way prisoners are treated.

Copies of Reports can be found on the Inspectorate's website: www.scotland.gov.uk/hmip