New ‘safe’ prison for women to open in Maryhill next month

The inmates will live in ‘house-style’ homes with no bars on windows or high fences.

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A new ‘safe’ Glasgow prison for women is due to open in Maryhill in October – with inmates living in ‘house-style’ homes.

Prisoners are set to have their own bedrooms and will be supported to live independently, doing their own laundry and housekeeping.

There will be no bars on windows or high fences and it is to be very different from female prison Cornton Vale.

The unit aims to reduce re-offending and prepare the women better for their release date so they can successfully reintegrate back into the community.

A total of 24 women will stay at the Community Custody Unit – which is called the Lilias Centre. Initially there will be about four women staying in the Maryhill unit.

Glasgow City’s Integration Joint Board approved the future recruitment of staff for the unit at its meeting yesterday.

Praising the new unit, former church minister Rev John Matthews said: “I have dealt with women coming out of Cornton Vale. I am so pleased this is going ahead. Well done.”

Pat Togher at Glasgow City’s health and social care partnership described the new unit as “an ambitious and extensive piece of work.”

Speaking at the meeting John Ferguson called for a similar facility for men and described female jail Cornton Vale as a “luxury camp” compared to a prison for males.

Councillor Chris Cunningham, SNP, said he accepts the point but that approaches need to be tailored accordingly for women. He pointed out the meeting agenda was about discussing the unit for women.

Cornton Vale is set to close and be replaced by a new facility in Stirling.

The only other community custody unit in Scotland opened in Dundee in August – called the Bella Centre.

The Glasgow Maryhill custody unit is set to cost £282,334 to operate between October and March and £547,499 to run during the financial year 2023 to 2024.

It was due to be based on the site of the former Maryhill Health Centre.

Margaret McCarthy voiced concern about how staffing the new unit could put pressure on teams’ resourcing at the integration joint board meeting.Susanne Millar chief officer of Glasgow City health and social care partnership said she is confident it can be staffed safely.

The Scottish Prison Service said the units in Dundee and Glasgow will be unlike any existing facility in the prison estate.

It said: “The women will live in shared house-style accommodation with shared facilities downstairs and bedrooms upstairs. It will blend into the surrounding community; there will be no bars on the windows, no barbed wire or high fences that you might associate with a prison.

“Every woman allocated to a community custody unit will have undergone a robust risk and needs assessment process. They will accommodate women of mixed custodial sentence lengths and women will, following appropriate risk assessments have the opportunity to access the community. Living in the CCU will enable these women to foster stronger and closer links within the appropriate community support agencies they will be working with prior to release.”

A paper presented to the integration joint board said: “It will provide safe accommodation for 24 women currently in prison, with a focus on meeting the needs of women in prison whilst promoting closer community contact and access to local services. It is anticipated that this new approach to women in prison will create sustained stability for women in preparation for successful reintegration back into the community.”

The meeting heard the new type of prison is based on evidence that it is effective.

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