Community sentences continue to support local projects across Scotland.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf has welcomed figures revealing Scotland’s communities have benefitted from around 7 million hours of unpaid work by people serving Community Payback Orders since their introduction in 2011.
Criminal Justice Social Work 2017-18 statistics show 17,800 Community Payback Orders (CPOs) were commenced in 2017-18 and 75% had an unpaid work or other activity requirement.
In addition, just over 1,000 fiscal work orders commenced in 2017-18 including unpaid work and 86% were successfully completed.
Responding to the figures, the Justice Secretary also confirmed plans to lay the order to extend the presumption against short prison sentences from 3 months to 12 after Easter. Subject to parliamentary approval, it is anticipated the extension will come into force in the summer.
Mr Yousaf said:
“From refurbishing and redecorating local facilities to gritting roads in cold weather, unpaid work projects make a real difference to communities. With the total number of hours around 7 million, and evidence showing that those released from a short prison sentence are reconvicted almost twice as often as those given CPOs, the value of community sentences is clear.
“We are working closely with councils, third sector partners and Community Justice Scotland to strengthen the provision of alternatives to custody and support our hard-working prison officers by ensuring prison is focused on those people convicted of the most serious crimes and who pose the highest risk to public safety.
“As we plan for the extension of the presumption against short prison sentences, which is supported by empirical evidence and was backed by the vast majority of consultation respondents, we have protected and strengthened funding for Scotland’s criminal justice social work services so that it now stands at just over £100 million. We also provide over £11.6 million to third sector organisations working to help reduce reoffending - keeping crime down and communities safe.”
6,887,119 of hours of unpaid work have been recorded as part of CPO unpaid work or other activity requirements successfully completed between 1 April 2011 and 31 March 2018. It doesn’t include unpaid work under legacy orders, fiscal work orders or CPOs unpaid work requirements that were not successfully completed.
The use of custodial sentences under 3 months has fallen over the last decade, while the proportion of people given a community sentence has risen, from 14% in 2008-09 to 20% for the last two years.
85% of the responses to the Scottish Government’s 2015 Consultation on Proposals to Strengthen the Presumption against Short Periods of Imprisonment supported an extension of the presumption and 84% supported an extension to 12 months.
National Statistics show that those released from a short prison sentence are reconvicted almost twice as often in 12 months than those given community payback orders (CPOs).
Justice Social Work plays a vital role in ensuring community sentences and other interventions are effective in addressing offending and its causes, paying back to communities and preventing re-offending. This work has helped achieve a 19 year low in reconviction rates.
Completion rates for community sentences have increased, 70% in 2017-18 compared to 64% in 2006-07. Updated Practice Guidance on Community Payback Orders was published on 25 January to further support effective practice and improvement, including a fresh focus on breach and compliance.
While volumes of criminal justice social work reports and orders fell by over 5% in the last year, ring-fenced funding for Criminal Justice Social Work of just over £100 million is being protected in the 2019-20 Budget to deliver community sentences, support rehabilitation and reduce re-offending.
The Scottish Government continues to invest in third sector services that support criminal justice social work and community justice partners working together, to reduce reoffending. In 2018-19 this investment totalled over £11.6 million including support for mentoring, Apex, SACRO, the 218 Centre for women, Venture Trust, Turning Point Scotland, Families Outside and Prison Visitor Centres.