The 'Bella Centre' Completion and New Strategy for Women

We are delighted to announce the completion of SPS’ first Women's Community Custody Unit - ‘The Bella Centre’ in Dundee.

A truly landmark moment, the Centre is the first facility of its kind in the UK. This marks a significant step change in the way Scotland supports women in custody, with a focus on ‘custody in the community’.


How did we get here?

In Scotland, the report of the Commission on Women Offenders in 2012 (known as “the Angiolini Commission”), provided a catalyst for change, publishing recommendations that set the scene for system-wide reform with a focus on service re-design, alternatives to prosecution and remand, sentencing and prisons.

In early 2015, plans to build a large women’s prison in Inverclyde were reconsidered as the Scottish Government and Scottish Prison Service collaborated to rethink the approach to the custody of women, drawing from international best practice.

In July 2015, Scottish Ministers announced that Scotland would adopt a new and innovative approach for working with women in our care. It was announced that a smaller national facility for women with more complex needs and risks would be built to replace HMP & YOI Cornton Vale and two new Community Custody units (CCUs) would be developed across Scotland.

Since the announcement, we have worked to develop the best possible facilities for women in our care, our staff and our communities.  We have re-designed our custodial environment with the aim of creating gender specific and trauma-informed settings with facilities designed to help better prepare women for release.


What is the Bella Centre?

The Bella Centre is a 16-space Community Custody Unit (CCU); unlike any existing facility in the prison estate. The Centre blends into the surrounding area; there are no bars on the windows and no barbed wire or high walls, that you may associate with a traditional prison.

The facility features shared house-style accommodation with communal living spaces downstairs and individual bedrooms upstairs. Women will be supported to live independently and to develop a range of life skills by taking responsibility for their own personal care, laundry and housekeeping.

There is also a ‘Community Hub’ where women can meet with visitors, and access a range of activities and local services which will help to develop the skills and support networks necessary for successful reintegration into the community.


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.


What’s next?

The second Community Custody Unit, The Lilias Centre in Glasgow is set to open later in 2022. More information on the CCUs can be found here.

The new HMP & YOI Stirling is being built on the existing site of HMP & YOI Cornton Vale and is due to open summer 2023.


Strategy for Women in Custody 2021-25

This new model is underpinned by our new Strategy for Women in Custody.

The strategy is founded on the principle that all aspects of the care of women in custody should be designed for women and take account of their likely experience of trauma and adversities. All aspects of the approach are therefore both gender-specific and trauma informed. 

You can read the strategy in full here.

Bella external

Bella internal