Thursday, July 14, 2011

Alison McInnes: Kenny MacAskill must stop dodging responsibility for Cornton Vale

Phone hacking and News International are both terrible things, and they have, understandably, dominated the headlines over the past couple of weeks.

However, there's another scandal in Scotland - that of the appalling conditions endured by prisoners at Scotland's only women's prison, Cornton Vale, near Stirling.

Not once, but twice now, HM Inspector of Prisons has uncovered horrendous conditions there. In 2009 he outlined a series of failings. Kenny MacAskill, the justice secretary, did very little to remedy the situation. This may be because he and Alex Salmond have made it clear that they consider prisoners among the vilest people in society and so don't have much concern for their basic wellbeing and human rights. That's certainly how it looks.

Earlier this year, the inspector returned to the prison and discovered that, if anything, things had got worse. I wrote about this in greater detail here.  Basically many women in the heavily overcrowded Cornton Vale don't even have access to a decent bed or toilet. And when it comes to their mental health issues, they simply don't get the treatment they need.

Scottish Liberal Democrat Justice spokesperson Alison McInnes spoke out at the time and I'm glad to see that she hasn't forgotten the issue.

Today she challenged Kenny MacAskill, who's on a tour of Scottish prisons, to sort out Cornton Vale without delay. He extraordinarily said last month that this was an operational matter for the Scottish Prison Service. This is nonsense and he should take personal charge of the matter.

Alison said:

Kenny MacAskill has refused to answer why he failed to take any action to improve conditions at Cornton Vale prison after two damning reports.
 “When he arrived at the prison today, he would have seen how ‘stark’ the conditions are and how many prisoners are sleeping without proper beds. I hope this will shame him into taking immediate action.
 “The Scottish Government is failing women in the criminal justice system. Instead of dodging his responsibility, the Justice Secretary needs to take direct responsibility and ensure immediate improvements are made.”  
I'm sure Alison will be on MacAskill's case until conditions improve.


Anonymous said...

I'm posting anon. here because I i
used to visit Cornton Vale in the course of my work. It's a place of sorrow and despair, and many of its population probably really belong in hospitals. The problem is greater that just issues about how Corntomn Vale operates. The whole Criminal Justice system, especially how it treats women and how it responds to mental health concerns, needs to be reviewed and reformed.

cynicalHighlander said...

This situation hasn't just arisen but when people are locked up for protesting against nuclear weapons which your party now supports.

Cornton Vale Prison Report

Why did your party not do something when they had the power?

Since your party in Westminster is cutting Scottish government funding so that they can carry on supporting the bankrupt banking industry and fund the killing of foreign nationals in foreign lands your complaints are a bit rich.


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