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16 January 2015
Misinformation over Inverclyde plans, says project lead

Misinformation over Inverclyde plans, says project lead

Much of the opposition to a replacement for Cornton Vale’s female prison has been predicated on “misconceptions” about the new facility, the head of the project has claimed.  

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) plans to shut the Stirling-based establishment in favour of a new prison at Inverclyde that can manage a women’s population of 300 and is capable of expanding to 350 if necessary.

However, the project has faced criticism, with Scottish Labour leader Jim Murphy – who last week described it as a “super-prison” – calling for it to be scrapped.

Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Michael Matheson, told a Holyrood conference last week that he intends to take time to consider the SPS proposal before announcing his decision “shortly”.

“I think there is a popular misconception, maybe, about Inverclyde, that it is a maximum security prison, that it is a very big prison, and that it is going to cost a huge amount of money which could be better spent in the community,” said Kate Donegan, lead and executive for the Women Offenders Project set up to design and commission the new prison. 

“But Inverclyde is the same size as Cornton Vale. When Inverclyde is built - if it is built, depending on the outcome of the Justice Secretary’s review - it will not increase current capacity in the prison estate.”

Inverclyde is intended to be a “dual function establishment”, she added, operating as a regional facility for around 200 women from the west of Scotland and a national one for a further 100. 

“The proposal offered by the prison service of Inverclyde would potentially provide cutting-edge accommodation for women from the west of Scotland and nationally,” said Donegan. 

“So it’s dual function. It is not maximum security, the security level is consistent with the risk presented by the women, and it has two functions.”

In 2012, the Commission on Women Offenders, led by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, called for Cornton Vale to be replaced “with a smaller specialist prison for those women offenders serving a statutory defined long-term sentence and those who present a significant risk to the public” with short-termers held in local prisons.

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