All eyes will be on December budget
When Michael Matheson told MSPs of his plan to abolish short sentences he said it was time to “challenge the idea that the only real punishment is prison”.
As a former occupational therapist, it is perhaps no surprise the Justice Secretary is a big fan of rehabilitation but is Scotland equipped to move, as the SNP minister describes it, “beyond bricks and mortar punishment”?
Well the current community justice set-up suggests the answer is unclear.
Just over 16,000 Scots completed some form of community sentence in 2015/16 but more than 12 Community Payback Orders were revoked every day.
As Karyn McCluskey has hinted, there will be a push to divert those who need the most help away from the traditional fence-painting or litter-picking schemes and into rehabilitation programmes which look to address underlying causes of crime.
Ministers want to expand the use of electronic monitoring to try to meet the demand created by sending up to 11,000 people a year into the community instead of prison to serve their sentences.
Community Justice Scotland is helping to co-ordinate trials of the new approach and the presumption against prison sentences of less than 12 months is set to come in next year.
But most frontline organisations are still waiting for some direction on how it will all play out and crucially how it will be funded, meaning the Justice pot in December’s draft budget will be watched very closely.