An innovative unit designed to save the lives of vulnerable women prisoners was opened yesterday at Styal prison, in Cheshire, where six women died over 12 months between 2002 and 2003.

In the past, new prisoners would usually go on to Waite wing, where five of the six deaths occurred. Now, for at least two nights, women will stay in bright and comfortable surroundings at the "first night" centre, where they will be screened and begin to take advantage of welfare facilities.
The former segregation unit has also been remodelled and Styal's governor, Steve Hall, said its ethos will no longer have a punitive element. He hoped the centre would reduce anxiety and distress felt by women arriving in custody, many of them after sudden separation from their families. He confirmed there had been 41 attempted hangings over the Mother's day weekend.

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