Women Offenders

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 2:30 pm on 13th April 2005.

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Photo of Cathy Jamieson Cathy Jamieson Labour 2:30 pm, 13th April 2005

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I am aware that I do not have enough time to develop in detail other points that I wanted to raise, so I will conclude. The pressure for change is acute. Cornton Vale aims to become a centre of excellence for custodial practice for female offenders and it is making progress. That progress has been made possible by the significant efforts of staff and the investment in the estate. The fact that Cornton Vale has been able to create a safe physical and emotional environment for women offenders is important. Cornton Vale has risen to challenges in the past, but it must continue to move forward. It must ensure a safe environment, but it must also create the impetus for a more fundamental change that will further reduce the likelihood of women reoffending, that will prepare women offenders for a return to a law-abiding lifestyle and that will end the revolving door that still catches too many women.

Again, we can see that happening. We know that female offenders work better in small groups, so Cornton Vale has set up smaller classes to encourage women into education. Moreover, smaller units have been set up for living accommodation. Cornton Vale is moving towards a community-based model.

We know that we must work with women offenders to address their offending behaviour, so the change programme focuses on practical areas. During the debate, I hope that we will hear more about the work that has been done to deal with debt management, housing and family issues. I could have dealt with a range of other matters, but I hope that the issues that I wanted to cover will be raised later in the debate.

I move,

That the Parliament notes the continued increase in the female prison population; recognises that, to reduce this, greater emphasis on rehabilitation within prisons and in community sentences is required to ensure that problems, including drug misuse, are addressed; believes that community sentences can play a significant role for those women who pose little risk to the public or communities in which they live; acknowledges that family and community support is vital in ensuring that women offenders are able to successfully reintegrate into the community, and recognises that a more integrated system of community and prison-based support services to improve the management of women offenders is required in order to reduce reoffending.