§ Mrs. Renée Short
asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department whether he will make a statement about future penal policy in relation to women and girls.
§ Mr. Callaghan
Following a review of the custodial arrangements for women and girls, I have decided upon a programme to re-shape the system of female penal establishments in England and Wales.307W
The current total of about 800 women and girls in custody has not varied significantly over the last quarter of a century, and is not likely to change markedly in the foreseeable future.
Most women and girls in custody require some form of medical, psychiatric, or remedial treatment. The main feature of the programme is therefore to demolish the existing prison at Holloway and redevelop the site by stages. This will permit the building of an establishment that will be basically a secure hospital to act as the hub of the female penal system. Its medical and psychiatric facilities will be its central feature and normal custodial facilities will comprise a relatively small part of the establishment. I am also considering whether it will be possible to include on the site new facilities for male remand prisoners, especially those requiring medical observation.
Whilst Holloway will be the principal establishment and provide certain country-wide facilities, the remaining establishments in the female system will be grouped into two complexes—one group in the South and one in the North. Each will have a range of open and closed prison, remand centre and closed borstal facilities. Since few girls require open borstal facilities, East Sutton Park in Kent will continue to serve the whole country. The borstal mother and baby unit at Exeter will be transferred to Styal in Cheshire which will be the principal establishment in the north.
In an interim report which I am publishing today the Advisory Council on the Penal System, which is reviewing the operation of detention centres, have made recommendations about the detention of girls. They have concluded that short-term custodial treatment is in general not suitable for girls and that the detention centre as a method of treatment should be given up. I am. grateful to the Advisory Council for their prompt and thorough report; and I have accepted their recommendations. In the light of this decision, and of my new proposals for women's prisons, I am arranging for Moor Court in Staffordshire, which is at present the only detention centre for girls, and an open prison for women, to be closed as a female establishment. Letters to the courts concerned are being issued today.308W
The scale of the female penal problem is such that, by devoting a reasonable element of the available total resources to it, it should be possible to create a viable system within the next ten years. I would aim to do this.