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£4 million for community sentences

Published: 15 Jun 2016 09:30
Part of:
Law and order

Increasing use of sentences for reducing reoffending.

Communities will see real benefits in their local areas from an increase in community sentences after the Scottish Government announced £4 million extra funding.

The money will support local community justice and voluntary sector partners to increase the use of community sentences as part of the Scottish Government's drive to reduce reoffending.

This additional investment underlines the Government's commitment to move away from ineffective short term prison sentences towards robust community alternatives.

The use of community sentences is on the rise, with more than 1.8 million hours of unpaid work imposed in 2014/15 as part of Community Payback Orders (CPOs). Unpaid work carried out under CPO delivers real improvements for local communities, from renovation and repair work to support offered to local charities and groups.

Justice Secretary, Michael Matheson, announced the funding on a visit to Clydesmill Fire Station Community Garden, being constructed by people carrying out unpaid work.

Mr Matheson said:

"Community sentences are a vital part of our bold approach to reduce the number of people in Scottish prisons. We have one of the highest imprisonment rates of any country in Western Europe and one of my main priorities in this next Parliament is to make more effective use of community alternatives rather than short prison sentences.

"Ensuring that robust community sentences, like Community Payback Orders, are available is critical to that, which is why we've invested this additional £4 million. CPOs are much more effective at reducing re-offending than short-term prison sentences and offer people the chance to pay back to their communities and make a real difference in their local areas.

"The number of CPOs imposed by the courts continues to rise since their introduction five years ago and they are having a huge impact, both on our local communities and the individuals who can use them to turn their lives around. And with reconviction rates at a 17-year-low, it shows our approach is beginning to work. Increasing the use of robust community sentences is part of our wider approach to reducing reoffending which includes reducing the use of remand, strengthening our use of electronic monitoring and a new model for the female custodial estate.

"As well as this inspiring community garden, South Lanarkshire is also running a pilot court-based improvement project which aims to reduce the number of people held in custody while on remand. These are both excellent examples of our reforming penal policy at work."

Sacro Chief Executive, Tom Halpin, said:

"The effectiveness of community alternatives to short prison sentences is now well understood and this additional £4 million investment to support partners, including the voluntary sector is welcome.

"To gain wider public support, community sentences need to be credible, that means challenging as well as supporting people who want to change, to work with them so they can pay back to their own communities, to repair the harm caused by their offending.

"Robust, person centred approaches in the community meets the needs of all affected, this includes victims, communities and offenders. The additional support this will provide, like supervised bail supervision and mentoring, offer smarter ways to further reduce reoffending while also reducing the prison population."

Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Local Senior Officer Alan Fairbairn said:

"This inspirational environmental project will allow us to engage with even more people and groups than ever before and we very much look forward to welcoming them into what will surely be a very beautiful and relaxing but nonetheless educational setting.

"There is no better example of the benefits of the Community Payback Scheme which helped lay the very foundation upon which this garden will be built. I hope it gave the team a tremendous amount of satisfaction in helping create a lasting community legacy that we hope will be used for generations to come."

Notes to editors

The money is announced on top of the £95 million allocated to Community Justice Authorities this year to deliver and support community justice services.