Cornton Vale (HM Prison)

Cornton Vale (HM Prison)
HMP Cornton Vale
Location Stirling
Status Operational
Managed by Scottish Prison Service
Governor Theresa Medhurst

Cornton Vale is a women's prison in Stirling, operated by the Scottish Prison Service. Built in 1975, Cornton Vale comprises a total of 217 cells in its 5 houses. It took only convicted women and girls from 1975 until 1978. In 1978 Parliament passed the necessary legislation to allow females to be held there on remand. Lady Martha Bruce was the first governor. Cornton Vale now houses almost all female adults and young offenders in Scotland. In April 1999, the separation of adults and young offenders was attained. And in the last 2 years, a systematic renovation and upgrading of all 5 houses has been carried out.



Before 1939, the site belonged to a Church of Scotland labour colony. Opened in 1907, the colony provided a home and training in market gardening for habitual inebriates and others - all male - sent by the Church or by their families. After the First World War, it took in unemployed men, mainly veterans at first. From 1926 to 1931, it received public funds under the Empire Settlement Act, and most of the trainees were helped to emigrate to the Dominions. It continued to train unemployed young men until the Second World War, but was sold off subsequently and re-opened as a male Borstal in 1946. Labour colonies of this kind were quite common in Britain before 1939.

It is now Scotland's only all-female establishment and so nearly all female prisoners and young offenders in Scotland are housed here. The complex provides 230 places for women prisoners in five blocks. Four of these blocks (or houses) have 178 places and are sub-divided into six or seven-room units each with its own dining/sitting room, and almost all have a common kitchen or servery. One of these blocks is containing 27 places is currently being renovated to provide a dedicated Young Offender facility. Prisoners have access at night to sanitary facilities.


It has been criticised for overcrowding, with 353 inmates being held there in November 2005 and the high number of suicides which have taken place there. Eleven women killed themselves while serving sentences at Corton Vale between 1997 and 2002. In 2010, Brigadier Hugh Munro declared the prison in a "state of crisis", citing overcrowding, two-hour waits for the toilet, cold meals, lack of activities and a deep problem of prisoner boredom which was impeding rehabilitation.[1]

In 2006, 98% of the inmates had addiction issues; 80% had problems with mental health and 75% were survivors of abuse. It also holds children, in particular the babies of inmates who are imprisoned alongside their mothers and teenagers where there is no suitable accommodation available in young offenders institutions.

In 2006 it was announced that the practice of "double cuffing" all inmates who are in labour to a custody officer until second stage labour and immediately re-handcuffed after giving birth, had ended.[2]


  1. ^ "Cornton Vale Prison: overcrowded, cold meals and a 2-hour wait for the toilet". STV. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  2. ^ "Cuffing prisoners in labour wrong’". The Herald. Retrieved 2007-01-05. [dead link]


External links

Further reading

Maguire, Maureen, Uncomfortably Numb. A Prison Requiem, (Luath Press, 2001) ISBN 1-84282-001-X A factual documentation of suicides in Cornton Vale Prison.

John Field, "Learning Through Labour: Training, unemployment and the state, 1890-1920", 1992, University of Leeds, ISBN 0-900-960-48-5

Coordinates: 56°08′28″N 3°56′54″W / 56.14099°N 3.9482°W / 56.14099; -3.9482

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