Nanny Trial: Jail `like a tour in hell'

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The Independent Online
The jail where Louise Woodward has been sentenced to spend at least the next 15 years has greatly deteriorated in the past few years under a tough new prison policy, according to a leading United States penal reformer.

The former nanny yesterday started her life term at Massachusetts Correctional Institution in Framingham, near Boston, the state's only prison for women, which holds about 640 inmates. A recent Massachusetts governor said that going to his state prisons should resemble a tour through hell.

The prison holds top-security criminals, including murderers, as well as about 100 women awaiting trial. The number of inmates has been rising under the state's tough new mandatory sentences for certain crimes. The US female prison population grew by 75 per cent from 1986 to 1991, to 39,000.

In the Eighties, the Framingham jail introduced facilities such as family rooms for offenders to spend time with their children. More recently, a women's mentoring scheme offered parenting and employment training. However, Dr Jerome Miller, president of the National Centre on Institutions and Alternatives, and a former head of youth jails in Massachusetts, warned that many of the reforms had been reversed. "The last governor, Bill Weld, has been on a law-and-order kick which has seen the prisons deteriorate. He said that staying in the prisons should resemble a tour through the circles of hell," he said.