Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR): interim report 2023

Scottish Advisory Panel on Offender Rehabilitation (SAPOR) interim report covers activity undertaken in 2023.

3. Policy Context

SAPOR is acutely attuned to the broader policy landscape, with a primary focus on supporting the overarching policy objectives of reducing reoffending rates and minimising the use of short-term imprisonment.

Scotland has one of the highest prison population rates in Western Europe, at 144 prisoners per 100,000 population.[1] The surge in the prison population can be attributed to a range of factors, notably the tendency for specific convictions, such as sexual and violent offenses, to result in custodial sentences. Additionally, there has been an increase in the average length of sentences for certain offences, including the extension of the punishment duration for life sentences. SAPOR's role encompasses the promotion of effective interventions within both custodial and community settings to curtail the number of individuals entering custody. It emphasises the efficient treatment of individuals within the community or while incarcerated, expediting their reintegration into society.

A fundamental shift is imperative, moving away from custodial sentences, particularly short-term ones, in favour of an increased reliance on community-based sentences and interventions that more effectively address the root causes of criminal behaviour.

The Scottish Government, along with broader community justice stakeholders, is actively taking steps to support this transition. This includes the recent extension of the Presumption Against Short Sentences, which encompasses custodial sentences of up to 12 months. Furthermore, the Management of Offenders (Scotland) Act 2019 introduced provisions to expand the use of electronic monitoring, providing additional means to manage individuals within the community. Taken together these are encouraging developments.

The new model for community justice, as outlined in the Community Justice (Scotland) Act 2016, underscores the significance of a public health-based approach to prevention at 3 levels; primary, secondary, and tertiary, and recognises that effective rehabilitation is an integral component of any such intervention. It emphasises that addressing and reducing reoffending cannot be accomplished by justice services alone and underscores the pivotal role played by broader partners, including the NHS, local government, and third-sector organisations. If we want to maximize our contribution to crime reduction working together across agencies and organizations needs to underpin our approaches.

This model is guided by a national strategy with four key priorities:

1. Enhanced community awareness and participation.

2. Strategic planning and collaborative efforts.

3. Effective utilisation of evidence-informed interventions.

4. Equal access to services that support desistance, health, housing, and welfare.[2]

The legislation also established Community Justice Scotland (CJS) as the national body for improving community justice. SAPOR is eager to further strengthen its collaboration with CJS to explore opportunities for increasing the adoption of community interventions and enhancing public confidence in these approaches.

To successfully promote the use of community sentences and interventions, it is imperative that there is a deeper understanding and confidence in these measures and that high-quality interventions are consistently available throughout Scotland. And this is a broader question that we need to consider as we move into 2024 - how we allocate our resources, including our time and financial resources too to maximize our impacts.

SAPOR recognises the value of effective community sentences, core supervision practices, evidence-informed justice social work services, the review of mental health provisions, the proportionate allocation of resources, and meaningful partnership collaboration.



Back to top