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Parliamentary debates and questions

S5W-05531: Liam McArthur (Orkney Islands)

Scottish Liberal Democrats

Date lodged: 13 December 2016

To ask the Scottish Government what plans it has to (a) increase and (b) promote the use of alternatives to (i) detention, (ii) rehabilitation and (iii) reintegration of offenders.

Answered by: Michael Matheson 10 January 2017

The Scottish Government is committed to reducing reoffending in Scotland which has significant costs to individuals, families and our communities. Delivery of this commitment includes a focus on reducing the use of imprisonment, in particular short-term imprisonment, in favour of robust community sentences. The delivery of Community Payback Orders (CPOs), as the main community sentence in Scotland, are a critical element of this vision.

Feedback received from both beneficiaries of unpaid work projects and the individuals on CPOs makes clear that these orders are delivering positive outcomes and are helping people to move away from offending behaviour. The evidence supports this; individuals released from a custodial sentence of 6 months or less are reconvicted more than twice as often as those given a CPO and reconviction rates in Scotland are at a 17 year low. We are working with local authority Criminal Justice Social Work departments to continue to raise the profile of these orders and the benefits they are bringing to local communities. To support this, we have protected the funding for community justice services in the draft 2017-18 Scottish Budget.

For those individuals for whom a prison sentence is necessary, there is a clear emphasis on supporting their rehabilitation and reintegration as a way of preventing further offending. The Scottish Prison Service delivers a range of rehabilitation programmes which includes access to learning, skills and employability support.

We also recognise that it is vital that support is in place to enable individuals to reintegrate successfully into their communities when they leave prison. The Ministerial Group on Offender Reintegration has helped inform a range of ongoing cross-cutting work to improve access to key services and we are working with a range of partners across the public and third sector to deliver on the Group’s recommendations. This has an initial focus on developing better co-ordination of housing and health provision for people leaving custody, and to help improve their prospects for employment.