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Policy in detail: Action to improve the way that women offenders are dealt with

The female prison population in Scotland has doubled in the 10 years to 2011. Many female offenders are deeply vulnerable people for whom offending is a result of chaotic lifestyles, mental health difficulties, and severe addiction problems. Many will have been the victims of abuse in their lifetime.

A Commission on Women Offenders was set up by the Scottish Government in June 2011 to find a more effective way of dealing with women who offend. The Commission, headed by former Lord Advocate Dame Elish Angiolini, recognised that women offenders have very different needs to those of their male counterparts and require very specific support.

The Commission published its final report in April 2012 which set out a series of far-reaching measures to help address the continued rise in the female prison population, and improve outcomes for women offenders across the criminal justice system.

We are taking forward a number of actions to improve opportunities for women offenders, in line with the Commission’s recommendations, including:

  • allocating £3 million to a range of projects to help women offenders turn their lives around including new Women’s Justice Centres in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Dundee and Aberdeen and improved services in a number of other projects across Scotland
  • supporting a national mentoring scheme for female offenders
  • working with the Scottish Prison Service to develop HMP Inverclyde as a ‘custom made’ national prison for women offenders, a new regional unit for women in Edinburgh and a unit for women at the new HMP Grampian

Since the Commission on Women Offenders reported, the Cabinet Secretary for Justice has provided the Scottish Parliament with annual progress reports on steps taken to implement its recommendations