The first images of a “game-changing” new custody unit to be built in the Hilltown are exclusively revealed in the Tele.
The Scottish Prison Service (SPS) held a consultation on its women’s community custodial unit (CCU) at the Maxwell Centre yesterday.
These images were on display at the drop-in session, and SPS staff were on hand to answer questions and explain the unit’s purpose.
The Dundee CCU will be the second of its kind in Scotland, following a similar unit being built in the Maryhill area of Glasgow.
The facility is expected to open by 2020, and will host up to 16 inmates.
Tom Fox, of the SPS, said CCUs are a “gamechanger” in the way female offenders are managed.
“This will make a real difference to the lives of the women coming into our care,” he added.
“There is a consensus that there are too many women in prison in Scotland.
“Female offending is different (from males) – the reasons behind it are varied and complex.
“A lot of the women in our care have been subjected to significant trauma in their lives, whether domestic, emotional or otherwise.
“What we are trying to do is support them in a way that allows them to take control of their own lives and live positive lives on the outside.”
Mr Fox explained the facility was deliberately “domestic” in design, to help it blend into the area.
He said: “It will not look like a custodial facility. That is deliberate.
“There will not be a big fence, but there will be a secure entry – a single way in and out. If anything, the entrance looks like a health centre.
“It’s going to be staffed and have security on site 24/7. There will be shielding in the way of existing trees and additional planting. It will look like a domestic environment.”
CCUs will house female offenders who are serving shorter sentences, or coming to the end of longer ones.
About a third of the inmates – five or six at most – will occasionally go out into the community for work placements or activities.
Some of those trips will be accompanied, while others will not but will have licensing conditions attached.
Mr Fox made it clear there would be “consequences” for those who breach their conditions.
Visitors will also have to abide by prison-style rules on visiting hours at the complex, which will close to the public at night, and locals will be able to call a 24-hour helpline, Prison Watch, should they have any concerns.
SPS bosses hope that today’s information event will allay residents’ fears about the CCU, amid concerns about it bringing more crime into the area and denting house prices.
Locals have also questioned the wisdom of placing a custodial unit next to a school – in this case, the Coldside Community Campus under construction.
However, Mr Fox said that he had seen no issues in the area surrounding Cornton Vale women’s prison in Stirling – the predecessor to the CCUs.
He said: “At Cornton Vale we’ve never had any problems with women going out into the community.
“I also don’t think there is any evidence of facilities having an impact on house prices.
“There has been an expansive range of housing built beside Cornton Vale after it was built. There’s a school beside it, which offenders walk past every day.
“Do we recognise that people have concerns? Of course we do.
“But letting people see what we are proposing is not what they expect is quite crucial. People get concerned when something new and unknown is proposed to them – that’s perfectly reasonable.
“The fact we’re talking with the community, I think, means these concerns can be assuaged.”