There are too many women in prison who should not be there. That is the loud and clear message from the chamber today. It has come from the minister, Stewart Stevenson, Colin Fox, Patrick Harvie and others. It is also an observation with which I agree. However, that most certainly does not mean advocating different or special treatment or a soft-option approach for women who commit crimes.
Prison and custodial sentences are intended to serve four main purposes: rehabilitation, public protection, punishment and deterrence. If the offence committed merits a custodial sentence—and such crime is on the increase—we should quite simply jail more people, men and women alike. Instead—and I genuinely regret this—the Executive is sending out entirely the wrong message by its refusal to end automatic early release. That stance is merely increasing the revolving-door, reoffending syndrome in Scottish prisons.
Bill Aitken and the deputy minister have both confirmed that more women are committing serious crimes. Ending automatic early release would send a clear message that those crimes will not be tolerated. Ten years should mean 10 years.