The closure of Scotland’s only women’s prison will begin this summer, the justice secretary will announce on Thursday.
More than half of the prisoners currently housed at Cornton Vale in Stirling will be moved to Polmont jail in Falkirk.
The construction of a new women’s prison at Cornton Vale for the most serious offenders is expected to begin in mid-2018.
Michael Matheson said: “This move is another positive step towards our ambitious new approach to transform the way we deal with women in custody. We must be smarter in our approaches so that we can help break the cycle of reoffending.
“Moving a large number of female prisoners from Cornton Vale to newer, improved facilities at Polmont will allow us to decommission obsolete parts of the prison and progress with our vision for a smaller, high-quality national prison and five community custody units across the country.
“We are able to include Polmont in our plans thanks to the success we’ve seen in reducing youth offending in Scotland, which is down 70 per cent over the last ten years.
“By housing these women in smaller, community bases units closer to their families, alongside providing additional support to address the underlying issues which fuel the crime such as drugs, alcohol or mental ill-health, we can stop them from committing further crimes in the future.”
The new prison at Cornton Vale will house 80 serious female offenders, while five regional units set to open by 2020 will each hold 20 women.
The closure is part of a new scheme aimed at changing the way the Scottish Prison Service deals with women in custody.
In May 2014, the prison service opened HMP Grampian in Aberdeenshire as a replacement for the notorious Peterhead jail. It was the first jail in Scotland to house men, women and young offenders together.