St Andrews Diocese Mothers’ Union’s work and involvement in local prisons
A report by Margaret Slater
For many years members of the Mothers’ Union have been involved with HMP Cornton Vale near Stirling. Every Christmas we have bought presents for each prisoner and given them a Christmas card. More recently we started to collect knickers for the prisoners and I have taken in hundreds of pairs in the last few years. I also take in socks throughout the year. Last Christmas there were only about 90 prisoners, there are usually approximately 240 prisoners. We had a tremendous response due to information being posted on our Diocesan website. It meant that every prisoner got at least 3 presents from people in our Diocese. A big thank you to everyone who kindly donated. A prisoner made a special card showing their appreciation.
A small group of MU members were invited to visit Cornton Vale prison a few months ago. We were welcomed by the Staff Training and Development Manager, he explained what was happening at Cornton Vale at present. They have started the demolition of some of the prison blocks. We were introduced to the Social Community Development Officer, who told us about his job organising work placements for the prisoners before they leave prison. He was very passionate about the girls and teaching them life skills .Then we met the assistant governor who also explained about the new prison which is going to be a state-of-the art prison. He is very excited about the future for Cornton Vale. The windows will be huge made from strengthened glass – no bars. The building will be shaped as a crescent overlooking the Fintry Hills and Ben Lomond. Each room will have ensuite facilities, so different from the existing prison, where because of security, during the night the girls could wait up to 50 minutes to use the bathroom. The girls have very little dignity. These 3 men were so passionate about the future for Cornton Vale prison.
The visit lasted almost 4 hours. We were shown round the facilities, library, hairdressing, life skills kitchen, Ross House, a special unit for vulnerable females, temporary chapel and the community garden. All these are going to be pulled down to build this brand new facility which hopefully will be the start to the rehabilitation of these girls, giving them the skills, confidence and self-esteem to come out of prison better persons.
In addition, there will be 5 Community Custody Units throughout Scotland which cater for 20 lower risk offenders so that they can be nearer to their families. Hopefully this will help them to rehabilitate in a less threatening way. To put them in prison can make them more hardened criminals. Dundee and Maryhill have been identified as suitable places for two of these Units and should be up and running by 2020.
Mothers’ Union are also involved with Glenochil prison. We go alternate Wednesdays and Saturdays and spend time with the children in the visiting hall. This means that they get some normality in what could be otherwise a daunting experience. Very often they have travelled a considerable distance to visit their relative and to sit for 2 hours can also be very boring. We play and interact with them. It is very worthwhile but we are always looking for new volunteers.
If you are interested in supporting our prison work in any way, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.