Local MSP, David Stewart, Labour has raised the issue of facilities for women prisoners from the Highlands, Islands and Moray with the Cabinet Secretary for Justice, Humza Yousaf.
David Stewart asked Humza Yousaf in the Scottish Parliament what plans the Scottish Government has for a new women’s community integration unit in the Highlands and Islands.
Humza Housaf stated:
“In June 2015, the Scottish Government announced ambitious plans for the future of the female custodial estate. Those plans include a new 80-place national facility to be built at Cornton Vale, and up to five new community-based custodial units, each accommodating around 20 women at locations across Scotland.
“The Scottish Prison Service is working towards opening the new national facility and the first two CCUs in Glasgow and Dundee by the end of 2021.
“The custodial arrangements for women from the Highlands and Islands will remain as they are.
“Decisions on the next phase of CCUs will be dependent on the risk profile and community locations of the women in custody, as well as on the lessons that are learned in bringing the first phase of CCUs into operation and how that impacts on the design and operation of the remaining CCUs.”
David Stewart commented that in 2019 there were 24 women in custody from the Highlands and Islands and Moray who were serving their sentences in HMP Grampian or Cornton Vale.
He said that distance from families affects relationships at home and behaviour within the prison environment and he asked if the Cabinet Secretary would consider a Community Integration Unit within the Highlands and Islands for women who are serving short sentences, on remand, on community integration or are at the end of their sentence.
Humza Yousaf said that the number of women prisoners from the Highlands and Islands was low.
“David Stewart is aware that the reason why a specific facility for women no longer exists in HMP Inverness is low numbers.
“It is not possible or justifiable to provide a meaningful regime for women there. However, he makes the important point that the other locations of the community custody units have not been decided.
“I suggest to David Stewart that he make representations to the Scottish Prison Service. If he thinks that there is justification for a community custody unit in the Highlands and Islands, he is free to put that case.
Speaking afterwards, David Stewart said:
“Together with my colleague, Rhoda Grant, I will indeed make representation to the Scottish Prison Service on this.
“The new Community Custody Units are being designed to accommodate twenty women. In 2019 there were sixteen women from the Highlands in custody with the other eight being from island communities or Moray.
“Distances within the Highlands and Islands and Moray are already vast and to ask family members to travel further into Grampian or the central belt to visit female relatives is completely unjust. We will be making the case for facilities to be made available within the Highlands and Islands.”
Rhoda Grant MSP, Labour, who has also campaigned for local facilities said:
“Prison sentences not only impact on the prisoner but on their families too and we must ensure families, particularly children, can easily visit a loved one whilst they are serving their sentence. This is even more important where that access is to their mother.”
The session also included questions on transgender recognition certificates and their impact on women’s prisons.
You can watch the whole Q & A here