Can prison effectively treat and rehabilitate female offenders with mental health problems? This is just one of the questions the Scottish Parliament’s Equal Opportunities Committee is seeking a response to as part of its inquiry into female offenders in the criminal justice system.
Launched today with a call for written evidence, the inquiry will cover the background of female offenders, their experience in prison and the extent to which prison prevents women from re-offending.
Committee Convener Margaret Mitchell MSP said: “Given that the average daily population of women in prison in Scotland has increased by 90% in the last decade, our inquiry is timely. The debate generated at the committee’s visit to Cornton Vale prison, where members met prison staff, inmates and outside agencies, only confirmed the need for this issue to be considered in more depth.”
"The committee particularly wants to look at the prison experience for female offenders. We want to explore whether prison can provide effective treatment or rehabilitation programmes to all female offenders or whether those with mental health problems, for example, require different interventions. Equally, we want to look at the background of female offenders, the services available to them in prison and the support they are provided with when they are released.”
The Equal Opportunities Committee has already carried out work in relation to female offenders. On 22 April 2008 it took evidence from a range of expert witnesses including the Lord Advocate and the governor of Cornton Vale prison. On 28 October 2008 the committee visited Cornton Vale prison where it received a tour of the prison from the prison governor and held an informal evidence session with the Routes Out Intervention Team, Open Secret, Routes Out of Prison and the Cornton Vale prison visiting committees. The committee also met prison staff and inmates.