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Scottish Prison Service ushers in a new era of community custody

July 28 2022

Scottish Prison Service ushers in a new era of community custody

The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) has completed its first women's community custody unit, billed as the first facility of its type in the UK.

Designed by Holmes Miller and delivered by Oberlanders The Bella Centre in Dundee is the culmination of efforts to change the way women in custody are supported by rethinking approaches to large-scale incarceration in favour of smaller community custody units (CCU).

Offering 16 places the centre is unique in the prison estate for forgoing the use of barbed wire, barred windows and high walls in favour of a domestic arrangement of house-style accommodation arranged around communal living spaces.

Residents will be supported to live independently during their stay by taking responsibility for personal care, laundry and housekeeping. Visitors and the take-up of activities are also encouraged to support reintegration within the community upon release.

In a statement, the SPS said: "Every woman allocated to a CCU will have undergone a robust risk and needs assessment process. The units will accommodate women of mixed custodial sentence lengths and women will, following appropriate risk assessments have the opportunity to access the community. Living in the CCUs will enable these women to foster stronger and closer links within the appropriate community support agencies they will be working with prior to release.

"For women serving long-term sentences, the facility will function similar to the top-end facilities that operate in the male estate - enabling a period of testing in less secure conditions with increased community access prior to release."

A second CCU, the Lilias Centre, is scheduled to open in Glasgow later this year. 


#1 Posted by Applause on 29 Jul 2022 at 10:47 AM
Stevie Steve
#2 Posted by Stevie Steve on 29 Jul 2022 at 13:37 PM
I don't understand. Is it now justice in Scotland for the penalty if you commit a crime to live in a wee community wendy house???
James Hepburn
#3 Posted by James Hepburn on 30 Jul 2022 at 13:35 PM
Stevie, the aim is to re-habilitate women who have offended. Figures show that large numbers of prisoners who go through the current system go on to re-offend largely because of the current system and its environment. This new system is not for all offenders but starts to address the issue of re-habilitation. After all it costs much more in the long run to the tax payer and society to constantly imprison re-offenders.
ong bak
#4 Posted by ong bak on 1 Aug 2022 at 09:07 AM
When are they going to install the water slides?
#5 Posted by John on 1 Aug 2022 at 11:33 AM
I agree that something should be done to tackle reoffending. Prison should be a punishment and rehabilitation. And this maybe the answer for low level crimes. But you could have a case where a female offender who lives on 15th floor of a tower block and comes to this place for punishment, which is better than the home life she has back in her tower block, where is the punishment? Also we havent had a Rose West or a Myra Hindley in Scotland what happens to a female who is really bad? Do they get sent to these nice flats, without bars on the windows and no barbed wire?
#6 Posted by modernish on 1 Aug 2022 at 11:41 AM
@3 - mind you if they just didn't commit a crime in the first place the wouldn't need to be become victims of the 'system'.
No thanks. Far too many people trying their hardest and still being forced to live in rubbish, damp, poorly insulated housing. We don't need to punish criminals more than we do, but there is something seriously wrong when criminals get housed better than law abiding citizens. The cost is a red-herring. If everything was genuinely based on value for money we'd be living in a very different looking world.
#7 Posted by KMCA on 1 Aug 2022 at 12:43 PM
@2 - The prison element is still a major component of punishment. These properties mean they're not simply going back to the same environment from which their offences were committed. It also provides a secure environment, and a place to access drug rehabilitation facilities, and for social services to access offenders, which is often the major problem: offenders lacking support to steer away from crime in future.

@5 - So the solution is to find the lowest housing standard that people struggle to live in, and make sure its no better? Of course not. Mostly what you'll find is that each offender is assessed by a gamut of professionals before getting sent out to these nice flats.

Its a step towards a model that works, as opposed to the current problematic no-solution.
Stevie Steve
#8 Posted by Stevie Steve on 1 Aug 2022 at 13:51 PM
I'd be pretty p****d if I was a victim or relative of a victim and found out the criminal responsible for the crime was going to be comfortably living here.

In m opinion, rehabilitation is important but perhaps that should come post punishment. Fair punishment and justice for victims is meant to be the main point of prison after all...
#9 Posted by modernish on 1 Aug 2022 at 15:56 PM
@7 - So the solution is to provide temporary better housing then they will have access to when released? Of course not.
It's not architecture or designs role to provide a 'solution' to criminal actions and rehabilitation. It can play a role, but a very minor one. It seems wrong headed, in my opinion, to be providing excellent standard accommodation to criminals when they are law abiding citizens living in some, frankly, appalling conditions. I'm certainly not saying have a race to the bottom as intimated, rather all local authority and housing association housing should be improved to a tolerable standard before we go splashing cash like this on criminals.
#10 Posted by Applause on 1 Aug 2022 at 20:12 PM
There's not half a lot of absurd reductivist, relativist tosh being talked here, not to mention the holier than thou lot. Shame.
#11 Posted by Peter on 2 Aug 2022 at 08:50 AM
Worry not, gents. These nice flats will be damp in 6-12 months time, so 'problem' will solve itself.
Jimbob Tanktop
#12 Posted by Jimbob Tanktop on 2 Aug 2022 at 14:00 PM
These comments provide a timely reminder that just as you're never more than 10 feet away from a rat in a city, you're never more than three comments away from a reductivist, classist, reactionary Daily Mail reader in any forum populated predominantly by the professional classes.
#13 Posted by Jonathan on 3 Aug 2022 at 10:34 AM
Wow this article has really shone a light on some really strong un-informed comments.

I must state that everything being discussed here on an 'architectural' forum relate very much to a social debate. That is always going to expose very strong views.

My personal views on the social issue is that this is a good thing. Women serving long term sentences 'at the end of their sentence' being re-housed somewhere that feels more like a home to try and re-integrate them into society cannot be a bad thing. I agree that there need to be justice and fairness.

As for the Architecture I applaud this. Surely as designers we should be trying to create positive spaces that are uplifting rather than an institution that is mundane and gloomy. The local residents i'm sure would much prefer something of this quality rather than a prison with 10ft walls and barbed wire fencing everywhere (even though over a 1000 objected to the 'concept' of having this beside them).

The real proof of the pudding will be how well this works, both architecturally and socially but I for one would rather take a positive outlook on being hopeful that this can work better.

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