3. Policy Context
SAPOR is very mindful of the wider policy context and in considering how we can support the overarching policy aims of reducing reoffending and reducing the use of short-term imprisonment.
Scotland has the highest imprisonment rate in Western Europe at 152 per 100,000. The rising prison population is driven by a range of factors. In particular, the tendency for particular convictions to lead to custodial sentences (e.g. sexual and violent offences) and the increase in average sentence lengths for certain offences (including the increase in length of punishment part for life sentences). The role of SAPOR is to promote effective interventions in custody and the community to reduce the number of people going in to custody and being effectively treated in the community or when they are in custody, to promote the swift movement of prisoners through the system before they are released back into the community.
A significant shift is needed away from the use of custodial sentences, in particular short-term prison sentences, towards to greater use of community sentences and interventions which are more effective at addressing the underlying causes of offending behaviour.
The Scottish Government and wider community justice partners are taking steps to support this shift. This includes the recent extension of the Presumption Against Short Sentences from custodial sentences of 3 months or less to 12 months or less. Furthermore, the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced provisions to extend the use of electronic monitoring to provide further options to manage individuals in the community.
The new model for community justice, introduced under the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, emphasises the importance of prevention (primary, secondary and tertiary) and recognises that effective rehabilitation is a critical part of any disposal. Importantly, the model recognises that preventing and reducing reoffending cannot be supported by justice services alone and highlights the critical role of wider partners including NHS, local Government and third sector organisations.
The model is underpinned by a national strategy which has 4 key priorities:
- Improved community understanding and participation;
- Strategic planning and partnership working;
- Effective use of evidence based interventions; and
- Equal access to services (i.e services which support desistance, health, housing welfare etc.).
This legislation also established Community Justice Scotland (CJS) as the national improvement body for Community Justice. SAPOR is keen to continue to develop our relationship with CJS to explore opportunities to increase the use of and public confidence in community interventions to support rehabilitation and reduce reoffending.
If we are to successfully increase the use of community sentences and interventions, it is critical that there is greater understanding of, and confidence in, these disposals and that high quality interventions are available consistently across Scotland.
SAPOR has responded to these developments by proactively engaging with Community Justice and explaining the process to wider audiences and encouraging those who deliver programmes in the community to engage with the accreditation function. Additionally, SAPOR is operationalising an Endorse Function which is intended to offer some quality review of interventions that are broader than individual change programmes, which in turn should promote confidence and support consistency.
SAPOR sees the value in the need for effective community disposals, core supervision practice, evidence based justice social work services, the review of mental health provision, the proportionate deployment of resources, and relevant partnership working.
SAPOR continues to accredit programmes run in custody, as noted elsewhere in this report this has included the accreditation/reaccreditation of 3 programmes over 2018/19 and 2019/20.