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11 February 2016, 11:23
The closure of women's prison Cornton Vale will begin this summer with the relocation of inmates to HMP Polmont.
Justice Secretary Michael Matheson said more than half the women currently serving at Cornton Vale in Stirling will be moved over the summer to allow preparatory work on a new facility to begin.
Construction on a new national prison at Cornton Vale is not expected to start until the middle of 2018.
Mr Matheson said HMP Polmont in the Falkirk Council area - usually reserved for young male offenders - will offer improved facilities for women in custody.
Scotland has the second highest female prison population in northern Europe.
Mr Matheson said: "Moving a large number of female prisoners from Cornton Vale to newer, improved facilities at Polmont will allow us to decommission parts of the prison and progress with our vision for a smaller, high-quality national prison and five community custody units across the country.
"We are able to include Polmont in our plans thanks to the success we've seen in reducing youth offending in Scotland, which is down 70% over the last ten years.
"We hope to replicate this success amongst women offenders through the smarter approaches we are taking forward.
"By housing these women in smaller, community units closer to their families, alongside providing additional support to address the underlying issues which fuel their crime such as drugs, alcohol or mental ill-health, we can stop them from committing further crimes in the future.''
Colin McConnell, chief executive of the Scottish Prison Service, said: "Cornton Vale has been a serious concern for our service and for the justice system for far too long, and it's truly rewarding that with the government's support and leadership we are now on the journey to seeing the back of it.
"The move for a large number of women to the fresh and modern conditions at Polmont will in itself be a significant improvement, making things better for them but also better for those who will remain at Cornton Vale for now.
"That the move is taking place is rewarding in itself, but it is of course part of the overall plan to provide accommodation for women in custody that is purposefully designed and specifically located to meet their needs and to ensure overall that the system as a whole works much more effectively and efficiently.''