A CONTROVERSIAL ‘alternative jail’ for women has been given the go ahead in one of Glasgow’s most deprived areas despite fears it will discourage investment in the area and risk public safety.

Up to 24 prisoners from jails around Scotland will see out their sentences in the community custody unit, which is being built at the site of the former health centre in Maryhill.

The women will be heavily vetted and could be allowed to visit shops and medical facilities, as well as accessing work in Maryhill and the surrounding areas.

The Scottish Prison Service said after being given planning permission that the unit would, “transform the lives of women in the West of Scotland and beyond.”

But the plans have been criticised by local residents and councillors who fear it will be. “bad for the area.”

Maryhill resident, Catherine Napier, who lives just yards from the site, said: “The distance from my back door to the perimeter of the custody unit is 31 paces.

“Since the women are allowed free movement outside and have been found in law to have committed a criminal offence, I will feel extremely unsafe in my house all day every day.

“I know if someone tries to enter my house or to assault me there is no way I can protect myself. The thought scares me and keeps me awake at night with worry.

“I will be obliged to keep my doors and windows locked shut at all times, which will make me feel claustrophobic and a prisoner myself.”

Maryhill councillor John Letford said: “Sadly, many people have expressed to me that they believe this will discourage business growth and diversification and inhibit Maryhill as a desirable place to live.

“Representing a community with strong and deep traditions, one which planners and powers that be should have been cognisant, and respectful, I too share their disappointment about the development of this proposal.”

Planning committee member Jaqueline McLaren added: “This is one of the most deprived areas in this city and we’re adding to that by putting this prison in this area.”

The facility will form part of the Scottish Government’s plan to move female inmates closer to their families in a bid to integrate them gradually back into communities.

Tom Fox, the Scottish Prison Service’s Head of Corporate Affairs said: “This will help transform the lives of many women from Glasgow and the West of Scotland.

“They will not go directly from court, they will be assessed before they go there.

“No more than a third of the women will be accessing the community at any one time. It’s not going to be a case of getting up in the morning and going down to the shops.

“The women will be licenced to go out and they’ll have a time to return. They might go out for a medical appointment or work in a charity shop, but they will always have a purpose.

“Women in custody must learn to look after themselves and we want to create an environment where women build the confidence to live independently.”

There will be four similar units across Scotland by 2024, housing around 100 women, with the next to be created in Dundee.