The justice system of a modern and progressive country - a country committed to tackling inequalities - is one which supports those who end up in our justice system to turn their behaviours around and become contributors to an inclusive and respectful society.
We know that the people who live in the most deprived parts of our society are more likely to have experienced challenges at school; mental ill health; alcohol or drug addiction; unemployment; or homelessness. It is little surprise therefore, that people who are the victims of crime and those who offend and their families are drawn disproportionately from these areas.
That is why the National Strategy for Community Justice is founded on adopting a preventative approach: an approach to not only reduce crime and the number of future victims of crime, but to help to create a more just, equitable, and inclusive society where people's life chances are improved and our public resources are made best use of. This strategy sets out an ambitious vision where people are rightly held to account for their offending, but are supported to be active and responsible contributors to their community.
Taking a holistic approach can help people to make positive changes in their lives, and help tackle the underlying causes of their offending. This strategy encourages community justice partners to provide tailored wrap-around services which work with people as individuals, and which recognise their strengths, needs and aspirations. The evidence is clear that better access to welfare, housing and health services, wellbeing and employability assistance can reduce or even prevent offending from occurring in the first place. This strategy sets out the role that partners have in improving access to these and other services.
For those that commit an offence, the strategy continues our journey towards robust sentencing options. Rather than invest resources in interventions that we know for many people do not work to rehabilitate them or reduce the likelihood of their reoffending - such as short term prison sentences - it promotes the use of effective, evidence-based community interventions. This is not about being soft or tough on crime, but about being smart on crime. Every interaction with the justice system should be seen as an opportunity to reduce and prevent further offending.
The answers are not straightforward - to drive improvement on such complex and intractable problems will require joint working from a range of partners, including some not traditionally associated with justice. These organisations will need to work together to ensure that we can provide the best possible outcomes. That is why collaboration is at the heart of this strategy. I am delighted and grateful that community justice partners have played an instrumental role in the steering group that led the development of this work.
To realise our goals will also require the willingness and collaboration of communities themselves; from the families, neighbours and local businesses who can support successful reintegration into the community, to the very people who have committed offences striving to turn their lives around and contribute productively to society.
This strategy provides a vision for community justice in Scotland. It is designed to help community partners prioritise key areas, to facilitate and drive improvement and to support our communities in realising that vision. I am confident that we can rise to this challenge.
Cabinet Secretary for Justice