Justice Secretary Michael Matheson has announced that current plans for a female prison in Inverclyde will not go ahead.

During a visit to Turning Point Scotland’s highly-praised 218 service in Glasgow, he stated that the current plans do not fit with his vision of how to address female offending and that Scotland needs to take a more radical and ambitious approach.

Mr Matheson said:

“I’ve decided that the current plans for a prison for women in Inverclyde should not go ahead. It does not fit with my vision of how a modern and progressive country should be addressing female offending. We need to be bolder and take a more radical and ambitious approach in Scotland.

“We know that women offenders are far less likely to be a danger to the public  compared with men. We also know that the families and children of female offenders are more likely to go off the rails and offend themselves if mothers are jailed miles away from home. This turns into a vicious circle, affecting future generations, and is doing nothing to address reoffending.

“I believe we should be investing in smaller regional and community-based custodial facilities across the country, rather than a large new prison for women. This approach would be more closely aligned with the vision set out by Dame Elish. It also demonstrates the Scottish Government’s commitment to tackling inequalities.

“We need to ensure that links to the family and community can be maintained, whilst targeted work is undertaken to address the specific issue which is fuelling the crime such as alcohol, drugs or mental health issues.

“The 218 centre in Glasgow which I visited today provides exactly the type of sophisticated approach that I would like to see as part of our plans for the way in which we look after women in custody.

Martin Cawley, Chief Executive for Turning Point Scotland said:

“We are delighted to welcome the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson MSP, to Turning Point Scotland’s 218 service.

“Community based alternatives to custody, like 218, support women to make positive changes in their lives by providing a safe, structured environment to help them improve health and wellbeing and address many of the underlying issues that contribute towards their offending, such as substance misuse issues.

“Many of the women using the service have a range of complex needs such as addiction, poor mental or physical health and trauma issues.By addressing these underlying issues, it reduces the likelihood of them reoffending in future.

“Turning Point Scotland 218’s approach is backed up by an independent evaluation carried out by London South Bank University and the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders, chaired by Dame Elish Angiolini.”