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Response to Cornton Vale report
Responding to the Chief Inspector of Prisons Report into Cornton Vale, Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said:
"Brigadier Hugh Monro's report vividly highlights the impact of overcrowding on the conditions at Cornton Vale. There are, quite simply, more women in Cornton Vale than there should be. It is a trend that has continued to the extent that there are almost twice as many women in prison today than there were ten years ago - despite recorded crime being at a near 30-year low.
"All this makes for challenging times which is why we are committed to tackling reoffending through a modern regime where prison is reserved properly for only those women who have committed serious or violent crimes. But, meantime, there is no scope for complacency or any sense of inevitably about the depressing conditions described in the report. That is why I am pleased that the Scottish Prison Service has today published an action plan which responds to each of the recommendations made by the Chief Inspector.
"I am pleased that the Chief Inspector has praised the efforts of prison staff - it is thanks to their commitment that, despite the overcrowding, much good work is taking place. They perform sterling work in difficult circumstances and it is important we recognise that.
"Many of the women locked up in Cornton Vale have complex and wide-ranging needs. But if we don't tackle those needs - in the prison and in the community - then we will continue to see the same women returning to Cornton Vale time after time, for a few weeks at a time. That is why our decision to integrate health care in prisons fully in the NHS should bring benefits.
"And we need to give women the skills - literacy, numeracy and vocational - to keep them away from crime and lead more productive lives.
"The presumption against short sentences and the proposed introduction of community payback orders will ensure that more women can serve their sentences in the community. The orders can be tailored to the individual needs of the offender including more suitable placements for unpaid work in the community and fitting such hours around, for example, school times and childcare arrangements.
"Earlier this month, in response to the Parliament's Equal Opportunities Committee report into women offenders, I outlined all the actions we are currently taking. I also announced an immediate additional £800,000 funding to Scotland's Community Justice Authorities (CJAs) to support their efforts to reduce reoffending by women.
"Previous well-intentioned efforts to reverse the number women going to prison have not worked. But we must not make the mistake of thinking the problem is intractable."