Women prisoners to be given ‘life-coaching’


By Oliver Farrimond

JAILBIRDS in Scotland’s prisons are to be given life-coaching lessons under a new NHS scheme.

Women prisoners will be offered the chance to learn “household management skills” and be given sexual health tips in a project to be piloted by NHS Lothian.

The scheme, codenamed “Willow”, will attempt to equip female prisoners with the life skills to keep out of trouble and expand their interests.

Under-fire Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill attended the launch of the scheme, and said that schemes such as this were necessary to address the causes of crime.

He said: “Clearly those that break the law must face the consequences of their actions.

“However very often the criminal justice system on its own can’t address the underlying problems behind offending behaviour.”

Dr Charles Winstanley, chairman of NHS Lothian, was keen to give his backing to the project.

He said: “The Willow Project is an example of NHS Lothian’s commitment to improving services for some of our most vulnerable women.”

The launch of the plan comes just days after revelations that Scotland’s soft-touch jails have allowed two violent criminals to escape within almost a week of each other.

Brian Martin, dubbed “The Hawk”, and convicted murderer John Brown both escaped from Castle Huntly Open Prison within almost a week.

As a result of the escapes, calls have intensified for MacAskill to step down from his Scottish Government post.


  1. Hi
    Reading your article I wanted to say what a brilliant rehabilitation program this potentially presents.
    To empower female prisoners and offer them the opportunity to learn basic life skills that will hopefully keep them out of trouble and expand their interests, could deliver great benefits for the future.
    I applaud you and wish you every success with this scheme.
    Thank you

  2. Hi

    The offer of life coaching is an interesting strategy. It is important that it is properly evaluated. Probably an idea to use external researchers.

    Stephen Palmer

  3. I, like Gary Graye, find this to be a great oppertunity for the women. It would certainly be in the best interest of the scheme to make sure the women are ready to be coached, but if they are, this could mean a real turning point for them. I am certainly no expert on recently released prisoners, but one thing that plagues them is this: usually the lifestyle that got them into prison is the only lifestyle they know. So, once released from prison, they are to go back into society and lead a completely “normal life”, but how do you do that when you don’t know what you don’t know? Coaching is a great goal getting avenue and it’s also empowering. I say much luck and success to this scheme and I hope the women reach their goals of new and healthy lives.

  4. I am always surprised at how forward looking the UK seems to be in terms of coaching. Back across the pond, an initiative like this would get people fired!

    Great article, great idea and great comments! I look forward to seeing how this all pans out!



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