Local projects continue to gain from community sentences.
Scotland’s communities have benefitted from around 8 million hours of unpaid work carried out by people serving community sentences since 2011.
New figures also show the number of people given supervised bail rather than being remanded in custody increased 26% between 2017-18 and 2018-19.
Unpaid work by people serving community payback orders (CPOs) supports a wide range of local needs including maintaining footpaths and clearing drains, making furniture for foodbanks and schools, work to preserve natural landscapes and redecorating community halls.
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said:
“While prison is necessary for offenders who pose a significant public safety risk, short-term custodial sentences are an ineffective means of rehabilitation. Imprisonment, including remand, disrupts families and communities, employment and housing – the very factors that deter offending and keep crime down.
“Unpaid work completed by people serving CPOs benefits local projects and helps them to become active and responsible contributors to their community. We recognise that some individuals will require sustained support and we are investing £9.5 million a year more in community justice services compared to 2015-16 as part of more than £100 million funding for justice social work.
“Many people in the justice system have chaotic backgrounds and struggle with addiction and mental health problems – issues that won’t be solved by a short period in prison, where hard-working staff should be focused on the most serious offenders. Community sentences, with supervision and other conditions where necessary, add structure and help people make the positive changes needed to tackle the causes of their behaviour.”
Scotland’s firm focus on prevention and effective interventions, including with people with high levels of need, has helped achieve a 20 year low in reconviction rates. In June 2019, Parliament voted to extend the statutory presumption against short prison sentences to 12 months or less.
Latest statistics show those released from a short prison sentence of 12 months or less were reconvicted nearly twice as often than those sentenced to serve CPOs, the most commonly used community sentence.
People on CPOs are subject to robust and on-going management in the community and courts have a range of options where orders are not complied with, including use of electronic monitoring, and revoking the order to impose a new order with new conditions or, where appropriate, a custodial sentence.
In some cases, an order without an unpaid work requirement may be the most appropriate and effective way to reduce reoffending and protect communities – for example, by addressing the complex needs of some individuals and tackling the underlying causes of their offending behaviour.
An order without unpaid work must have supervision and may include specific requirements in relation to treatment of alcohol, drugs or mental health, for example.
Bail supervision is a social work or third sector service where individuals who would otherwise be held on remand are released on bail on the condition that they meet with a supervisor a specified number of times a week to support the individual to comply with their bail conditions. The Scottish Government recently announced that it has commissioned a study into the reasons behind Court decisions on bail and remand.