Reforming women’s justice in Scotland
On Wednesday 10 February Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP delivered a speech at a packed workshop in Edinburgh on Women and Criminal Justice in Scotland, jointly organised by the Prison Reform Trust and the Criminal Justice Voluntary Sector Forum, to review progress towards implementing the Angiolini Commission recommendations to reduce the unnecessary imprisonment of women in Scotland.
Michael Matheson’s speech was delivered ahead of an announcement by the Scottish Government, that HMP Cornton Vale would close. This is to allow preparatory work to begin ahead of the construction of a new national prison, which will hold significantly fewer women.
Commenting on the announcement, Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:
“The closure of Cornton Vale is a clear and welcome signal to the courts that the solutions to tackling women’s offending lie largely outside prison walls. Plans to build several new small custodial units will help to keep women closer to their families and ensure proper provision for those few who have committed serious or violent offences. We welcome plans to invest in, and expand, community and health measures to reduce crime. Most of the solutions to women’s offending lie in treatment for addictions, mental health and social care, safe housing, debt management and employment. For most women, constructive community sentences will work better and avoid the pain of separating small children from their mothers. The Scottish government is set to lead the way in developing a fairer and more proportionate system for women’s justice.”
Juliet was interviewed about the announcement on BBC Good Morning Scotland, Scotland 2016, and BBC Radio Scotland.
Our report Transforming Lives, produced in partnership with Soroptimist UKPAC, revealed that too many women, many of whom are mothers, are sent to prison every year to serve short sentences for non-violent crimes, often for a first offence. It set out a blueprint for reform.