‘Al­ter­na­tive’ prison to be built on health cen­tre site

Evening Times - - NEWS - By HAN­NAH RODGER

SCOT­LAND’S first ‘al­ter­na­tive prison’ for women is to be built in Mary­hill.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment has an­nounced the plans as part of their ef­forts to re­duce re­of­fend­ing.

It will be one of two Com­mu­nity Cus­tody Units to be opened in Scot­land, with the Mary­hill site man­ag­ing ‘lower-risk fe­male pris­on­ers’ who will stay in the venue.

Dundee will also ac­com­mo­date one of the units.

The CCU will be based on the site of the for­mer Mary­hill Health Cen­tre and will pro­vide fa­cil­i­ties for around 20 women and is due to be open by the end of 2020.

The women who will serve their cus­to­dial sen­tence in the CCU will be ap­pro­pri­ately as­sessed as suit­able for serv­ing out this part of their sen­tence closer to their com­mu­nity and with greater com­mu­nity ac­cess.

The an­nounce­ment was made yes­ter­day af­ter­noon by Cab­i­net sec­re­tary for Jus­tice Michael Math­e­son, who ar­gued that short prison sen­tences should only be given out when there are no other op­tions avail­able.

He told the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment that ev­i­dence shows more than half of those re­leased from prison af­ter 12 months or less are re­con­victed within a year, com­pared to a third of those who had served a com­mu­nity sen­tence.

He said: “A just, equitable and in­clu­sive so­ci­ety is one that is sup­ported by a pro­gres­sive ev­i­dence-based jus­tice sys­tem; a sys­tem which works with com­mu­ni­ties to re­duce – and ul­ti­mately pre­vent – fur­ther of­fend­ing.

“A sys­tem which holds in­di­vid­u­als to ac­count for their of­fend­ing, but ul­ti­mately sup­ports them to make pos­i­tive con­tri­bu­tions.

“Over the past decade this Gov­ern­ment has taken steps to end our re­liance on cus­tody and move to­wards ef­fec­tive com­mu­nity sen­tences.”

Along with the two new units, the Scot­tish Par­lia­ment also plans to give more pow­ers to courts to use elec­tronic tags in com­mu­nity sen­tences.

The Gov­ern­ment ar­gues that the pos­i­tive ben­e­fits of tag­ging in­clude help­ing women in do­mes­tic vi­o­lence cases and al­low­ing peo­ple with men­tal health prob­lems and phys­i­cal is­sues to con­tinue to be treated within the com­mu­nity.

Mr Math­e­son said: “Elec­tronic Mon­i­tor­ing is al­ready an im­por­tant tool in the de­liv­ery of jus­tice. It car­ries a puni­tive el­e­ment and of­fers a range of op­tions to im­prove pub­lic pro­tec­tion, while al­low­ing an in­di­vid­ual to main­tain their em­ploy­ment and fam­ily links.

“When used to en­force cur­few con­di­tions, it can pro­vide sta­bil­ity to those whose of­fend­ing is part and par­cel of a chaotic life­style.”

Colin McCon­nell, SPS Chief Ex­ec­u­tive said he wants the Com­mu­nity Cus­tody Units to be a real part of the com­mu­ni­ties that they are in. He added:”We rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity of work­ing with coun­cil col­leagues in Glas­gow and Dundee to de­velop rad­i­cal new ways of car­ing and sup­port­ing those women who have found them­selves within the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem.”

Coun­cil­lor Su­san Aitken, Leader of Glas­gow City Coun­cil, said: “The sit­ing of a lo­cal Com­mu­nity Cus­tody Unit in the city will help re­duce re-of­fend­ing as the women in the unit will be closer to their fam­i­lies and com­mu­ni­ties, and they will have ac­cess to the high-qual­ity sup­port ser­vices we have in Glas­gow.”

The for­mer Mary­hill Health Cen­tre on Shaw­park Street, which is to be­come the site of a Women’s De­ten­tion Cen­tre Pic­tures: Kirsty An­der­son

The health cen­tre site will be Scot­land’s first ‘al­ter­na­tive’ prison

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