The Justice Secretary is scrapping plans to build a new womens’ prison at Inverclyde.
He inherited plans for a 350 cell prison on the outskirts of Greenock but in his first major act as Justice Secretary he is ruling them out in favour of local services.
He wants a more ambitious and radical approach to dealing with women offenders – mostly in communities near their families.
Mr Matheson is visiting the 218 centre in Glasgow this morning. It runs residential and day rehabilitation services.
He said: “Since taking up post as Justice Secretary, I have been looking closely at proposals for a new prison for female offenders at Inverclyde. I’ve also listened carefully to the views expressed by a number of key interest groups.
“I’ve decided that the current plans for a prison for women in Inverclyde should not go ahead. It does not fit with my vision of how a modern and progressive country should be addressing female offending. We need to be bolder and take a more radical and ambitious approach in Scotland.
“When it comes to the justice system, we must be smarter with the choices we make and be more sophisticated in the way in which we deal with female offenders.”
Labour will welcome what they say is a Scottish Government U-turn.
Labour’s deputy leader, Kezia Dugdale, said: “This is a victory for campaign groups, vulnerable families and simple common sense. As Jim Murphy and I have made clear, all of the evidence shows that locking up vulnerable women has a
terrible effect on families and children. We’re glad the SNP have backed.
Scottish Labour’s call to scrap the super-prison.
“We should be looking to do things differently in 21st-century Scotland and this is a step in the right direction.
“This U-turn from the Scottish Government was the right thing to do; we must continue to reform our justice system so that it punishes crime, not vulnerable families.”
Liberal Democrat justice spokeswoman Alison McInnes said: “I am pleased that the Scottish Government has listened to the voices of reformers and called a halt to its plans to build HMP Inverclyde.
“The proposed replacement prison was too big and in the wrong place. It ignored the recommendations of the Commission on Women Offenders, which called for a small specialist prison for the most dangerous and serious offenders, coupled with community justice centres around the country and small local prison units.
“Choices made now will define how we deal with women offenders for decades to come. The new Justice Secretary has made the right decision in halting his predecessor’s misguided plans.”
SNP MSP Christina McKelvie said: “The decision to move towards community-based facilities for female offenders is a welcome one that will help to reduce re-offending and help to support families.
“Since the publication of the Angiolini report in 2012 there has been a clear recognition that we need to do things differently and today’s decision is a welcome victory for those of us who have campaigned on this issue throughout
“Female offenders have different needs to male offenders and that is something that we need to be better at recognising and accommodating in Scotland’s justice
John Scott QC, convenor of the Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland, said: “Mr Matheson has done exactly as he promised – despite the short time since he took office and the urgency of the situation. He has reviewed all the
evidence and submissions, and ensured that the final decision was the right one.
“It is a bold decision and will be recognised as such by all those who have voiced their concerns about HMP Inverclyde.
“In deciding not to proceed with the proposal to build a new women’s prison at Inverclyde, the Cabinet Secretary is opening up the potential for greater use of community-based solutions for women who offend and women who are at risk of
offending. This will benefit all of us.
“By dealing appropriately and effectively with this vulnerable group of women, Scotland will be a safer place.”
Maggie Mellon, from Edinburgh Women for Independence, which campaigned against the prison, said: “It’s fantastic news, and we congratulate the Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, for making this bold decision.
“We look forward to building a different and more progressive justice system for women in Scotland.
“We would also like to congratulate Mr Matheson for listening to those opposed to the new prison and for having the courage to change course on this issue.
“Despite undoubted pressure, he has shown courage, confidence and principles to do the right thing for some of Scotland’s most vulnerable women.”