All eyes will be on De­cem­ber bud­get

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - News -

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.

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