Angiolini Commission on Women Offenders

Howard League Scotland welcomed the publication of the Commission on Women Offenders final report. The detailed report exposes how women’s experiences in prison differ significantly from those of male prisoners; illustrating that those women who receive a custodial sentence have complex needs and troubled pasts. Often they have experienced extreme deprivation, suffer from high rates of mental health problems and are often repeat victims of sexual and physical violence. As such, these women are among Scotland’s most vulnerable citizens.
Some key numbers:
• Under 2% of convicted women in 2010/2011 involved serious violence
• 75% of custodial sentences imposed on women are for 6 months or less
• 5%, percentage of women in overall 2010/2011 Scottish prison population , compared with 3.5% in 2000
• Only 30% of women on remand go on to receive a custodial sentence
• Women’s imprisonment in Scotland increased at a greater rate than male imprisonment.
• 80% of women in Cornton Vale are reported to have mental health difficulties
• Women are 10 times more likely to self-harm than male prisoners
• 35% indicated they had committed the offence to gain money for drugs (compared with 16% of men prisoners)
• 39% of women had not worked in the year prior to the offence
• 23% had not been employed for the previous 5 years
• 71% of women in prison in Scotland have no qualifications

Read the full report here:

Scottish Survey - Female Offenders (2011)

The Scottish Prison Survey, published every two years, is essentially a census that provides an outline of the characteristics of people who are incarcerated in this country. The survey asks questions about basic standards of living: Cleanliness, hygiene and fitness, food, healthcare, smoking, bullying and general atmosphere. It also quantifies the drug use, addictive behaviour and mental well-being of women prisoners in Scotland.

13th Prisoner Survey (2011) Female Offenders


SCCJR: Female Imprisonment in Scotland

This latest report from the SCCJR outlines the key issues regarding women’s penal policy in Scotland. In particular, the report highlights why the characteristics of women’s offending differs so considerably from men’s. Women, they write ‘are typically convicted of relatively minor crimes that pose little public risk and, because they are usually convicted of offences that are less serious than those committed by men’. The report also addresses a troubling rise in the number of women sent to prison in Scotland in the last 15 years which has not been mirrored by a corresponding increase in women’s offending. The report’s main aim then is to explore the main causal factors driving the increased number of women incarcerated in Scotland.

Read the report here: Understanding the Drivers of Female Imprisonment in Scotland 


Cornton Vale Inspector of Prisons Report 2011

This report highlights the critical condition of Cornton Vale prison. A summary of some main issues includes:

  • At a strategic level there is little demonstrable evidence of clear priority action for Cornton Vale
  • Ross House (Often used for vulnerable prisoners)N is suffering from a  lack of financial resources
  • The treatment of female prisoners at Cornton Vale fell well short of the standards on a number of counts, particularly for those most vulnerable prisoners in the ‘Management Suites’ in Ross House
  • Staff remain inadequately trained to deal with such vulnerable and disturbed women
  • In 2009 it was found that women who have to make a one day return trip to far away courts often had did so without receiving a hot meal during the day, without a shower prior to travel, without receiving their methadone (if prescribed) prior to travel and without reading material on the journey. This 2011 report finds that the situation has not improved.
  • Four major developments urged in 2009 have not yet been taken forward. These are:  i) proper ‘Care and Separation’ Unit to manage and provide for women exhibiting extreme behaviours which represent a threat to themselves and to others, as well as for those presenting mental ill health; ii) a new health centre; iii) a purpose built visits facility was urgently needed, and; iv) a purpose built Mother and Baby Unit.



SCCJR Report on Developing Sentencing & Penal Policy

An excellent report from the SCCJR which is aimed at policymakers highlights key concerns for Scottish penal reformers.

  • More people in prison in Scotland are there for remand (awaiting trial or awaiting sentence) than to serve a custodial sentence.
  • For every woman sentenced to prison in Scotland, two women are sent to prison on remand.
  • This in part can explain why Scotland’s imprisonment rate has increased so drastically in the last 15 years.

Policy suggestions:

  • The report argues that to stem the overreliance on imprisonment in Scotland courts should make greater use of community sentences, which is a more productive and meaningful punishment as it ‘involves making good to the victim and/or the community'.
  • We need to highlight the extent of the remand problem.
  • Engage with the public and increase public confidence in the criminal justice system.


Read the report here: SCCJR, Prisons and Sentencing Reform: Developing Policy in Scotland