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McInnes highlights appalling prisoner isolation cases

December 12, 2013 2:22 PM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Scottish Liberal Democrat justice spokesperson Alison McInnes MSPAlison McInnesAlison McInnes today urged the Cabinet Secretary for Justice to recognise that keeping female prisoners in isolation for long periods of time was degrading and would only compound their complex behavior problems and ill health.

During General Questions in the Scottish Parliament, Ms McInnes highlighted that between June 2012 and November 2013, 37 women were held in Cornton Vale's separation unit, with four of these women incarcerated alone for many months.

Ms McInnes argued the worst example was the case of one woman placed in a special bare cell in solitary confinement on six separate occasions over the 17 month period, for a total of 387 days.

Speaking afterwards, Ms McInnes said:

"These orders are personally signed off by Ministers so he cannot simply dismiss these serious concerns as operational matters for the SPS.

"I agree that there are occasions when offenders need to be kept under close supervision in order to protect themselves and others. In the majority of cases, people are reintegrated into the main prison very quickly and the unit can therefore prove to be a useful safety valve.

"However, when prisoners are isolated for such extensive periods of time then questions clearly arise as to whether the use of this facility is appropriate. It will surely only serve to compound their ill health and does nothing to tackle the underlying trauma."

The Cabinet Secretary also revealed that the Scottish Government has not carried out an urgent review of the provision and resourcing of services for women in prison with borderline personality disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is contrary to the recommendation of the Commission on Women Offenders which launched its final report on 17 April 2012.

Ms McInnes commented: "The Scottish Government has had 20 months to carry out this urgently needed review. It is simply not good enough to say that it remains 'under consideration'".