A prison governor has revealed that new prisons for women will resemble flats and will have cooking and laundry facilities.
Rhona Hotchkiss, governor of Cornton Vale prison, said women in a number of new custodial units would also be able to come and go to gyms and work placements and that the community units would not look like normal prisons.
At a meeting of the Scottish Association for the Study of Offending in Glasgow she said: “Really importantly, because these units will be in the community, they have to have minimal visible security.
“So they won’t have high walls, they won’t have barbed wire, they won’t have bars on the window, they will not look like prisons.”
Children would be able to visit and stay overnight to help maintain family life she added.
“They’ll all be in small flatted units, they’ll all be cooking for themselves, they’ll be doing their own cleaning, their own washing, able to wander about, confined only within the perimeter of the building and only at the times that are appropriate,” she said.
“It is our hope that after a short period of assessment when women come into community custody units, they will be going out. They will be going out to access health services, they will be going to access social work services, they will be going out to access work placements, they might be going home for a visit, they will be using leisure facilities and so on in the community.”
The news comes in the wake of the Scottish Government’s U-turn last year when it abolished plans for a 300-capacity women’s prison HMP Inverclyde near Greenock.
Acquiring and preparing the site cost £7.8 million – a figure the government had to write off after the creation of the facility was seen as being contrary to the aim of reducing the number of women in prison.
Cornton Vale will now be abolished and a new prison will be built on its site with space for 80 of Scotland’s most serious female offenders – women who are seen as posing a danger to the public.
The Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, will likely give an update on the government’s progress on putting its findings on female offenders into practice, with a model design of the new custody units expected in the coming weeks.