Pubdate: Sat, 16 May 1998
Source: Scotsman (UK) 


Sir, - I write in response to your articles, "Far fewer Scots women must be
jailed, says report" and "Behind the Vale of tears" (11 May). SACRO
(Safeguarding Communities Reducing Offending) welcomes the fact that the
minister for home affairs, Henry McLeish, directed that the prisons and
social work inspectorates for Scotland should review and make
recommendations about community disposals and the use of custody for women
offenders in Scotland.

We hope the report will be acted upon, and particularly the statements that
"almost all women offenders could be safely punished in the community
without any major risk of harm to the general population", that "less than 1
per cent of women sent to prison are violent offenders", and also that "up
to 52 per cent of female prison sentence admissions are fine defaulters".

SACRO agrees with the conclusion and recommendation that, "The only sure way
to reduce the number of suicide attempts in custody is to reduce the number
of women being imprisoned". We endorse the suggestion that there should be
more options in the community, with the provision of bail information and
supported accommodation.

The governor of Cornton Vale is on record as saying that only about 30 of
the inmates would be a danger to society. SACRO, therefore, would have
preferred to see the report go further, and recommend limiting the female
population at Cornton Vale to about 30 (those seen as a risk to society). We
are pleased, however, that it does recommend that the numbers are reduced
from over 170 to 100.

We particularly welcome the recommendation that, wherever possible, those
with major drug problems, and mentally disordered offenders, should not be
sent to prison.

It is also useful that the report points out that some of its conclusions
might equally apply to men.

Susan Matheson Chief Executive, SACRO Palmerston Place, Edinburgh

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Checked-by: Melodi Cornett