I have helped jail grand­fa­thers, their sons then their grand­sons. It does not change them and it does not pro­tect us. We need a dif­fer­ent kind of jus­tice - Karyn McCluskey

Leader of agency launched to empty pris­ons calls for new ways to pro­tect com­mu­ni­ties and trans­form lives

The Sunday Post (Dundee) - - News - By An­drew Picken APICKEN@SUNDAYPOST.COM

Not ev­ery­one will agree, but jails do not work


of­fend­ers build bet­ter lives will se­cure safer neigh­bour­hoods more ef­fec­tively than jail­ing them for a few months at a time, ac­cord­ing to the woman lead­ing the Gov­ern­ment’s drive for com­mu­nity jus­tice.

Karyn McCluskey, head of Com­mu­nity Jus­tice Scot­land, said short prison sen­tences do noth­ing to curb crime but end­ing them will de­mand the most ef­fec­tive pay­back and re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion ser­vices.

Up to 11,000 crim­i­nals will be spared jail each year after min­is­ters an­nounced a pre­sump­tion against prison sen­tences of up to 12 months in the coun­try’s courts.

The move will re­quire a huge ex­pan­sion of com­mu­nity jus­tice pro­grammes but Ms McCluskey be­lieves new ini­tia­tives will be re­quired for the gen­er­a­tion of Scots com­mit­ting crimes who now “live on their phones”.

Ms McCluskey, who led the Scot­tish Vi­o­lence Re­duc­tion Unit (VRU) tack­ling the coun­try gang cul­ture, said sen­tences need to match the com­plex­ity of mod­ern crimes such as cy­ber-en­abled of­fences like sex­ting.

She also said she wanted to see more of­fend­ers brought face to face with their vic­tims, as well as more pro­grammes to ad­dress is­sues such as lit­er­acy in re­peat of­fend­ers.

Ms McCluskey said the cost of end­ing short sen­tences is still un­clear but ar­gued the case for the move had been made.

She said: “I have been in­volved in jail­ing grand­fa­thers, fa­thers and sons and I hate it. We need to move on.

“It is a big change, a lot more peo­ple and you have to shift re­sources.

“It’s a big num­ber, 11,000, and it is ul­ti­mately up to the sher­iffs, but we need to give peo­ple the con­fi­dence these ser­vices are there, that they work and we are in this for the long term.

“Not ev­ery­one will agree with me, I am sure there will still be peo­ple say­ing you need send ev­ery­one to jail.

“OK, but we tried that in the US – they jail 3.5m a year and it does not work.”

The tra­di­tional view of com­mu­nity-based sen­tences is one of peo­ple pick­ing lit­ter or paint­ing fences.

Ms McCluskey is adamant peo­ple must pay their dues but added we need to move on from it just be­ing about “graft”.

She said: “Not ev­ery­one has the ca­pac­ity, if I speak about some of the women I deal with – I deal with women who come from abuse, from al­co­hol, from drugs.

“Peo­ple make value judg­ments about a 19-yearold woman ap­pear­ing in court, but I can tell you if I met her at the age of five or six it would be the same kids who are in the Barnardo’s abuse ad­verts, with their heads in their hands. We seem to for­get that.

“It is not just about un­paid work, that is one part of it, but how do you get peo­ple to ad­dress their be­hav­iour – how do you get them to ad­dress their al­co­hol, their drugs and their men­tal health and all the other things we know are driv­ers of crime.”

She said: “A lot of peo­ple who will now not go to jail will have ad­di­tional needs.

“If you take some­thing like lit­er­acy, this ab­so­lutely needs to be part of our think­ing in the fu­ture.

“So much of the prison pop­u­la­tion has lit­er­acy is­sues.

“How can you ap­ply for a job if you can’t read – it’s about equip­ping peo­ple to make pos­i­tive choices.”

Coun­cils, sher­iffs and com­mu­nity sen­tence providers have all wel­comed the move to end short

sen­tenc­ing but have warned it needs to be prop­erly funded and not seen as a way of sav­ing cash by clos­ing ex­pen­sive jails.

And, she ad­mit­ted, there is a lot of work to be done in this area.

Ms McCluskey spent 21 years work­ing with the po­lice and helped es­tab­lish the VRU in 2005.

Part of the VRU’s suc­cess has been through match­ing crim­i­nals and their vic­tims to try and ex­plain the dam­age done by their crime.

She said: I’ve got a pas­sion for restora­tive jus­tice but it is a not a low-cost op­tion.

“In North­ern Ire­land and New Zealand it is em­bed­ded into the sys­tem but here it is more of an af­ter­thought and that means vic­tims and com­mu­ni­ties don’t get the chance to look some­one in the eye and say, this is the harm you caused.

“It is not for ev­ery­one but the op­tion should be there.”

How­ever, politi­cians warned the good in­ten­tions of de­liv­er­ing ef­fec­tive jus­tice in Scot­land’s com­mu­ni­ties must be matched by proper re­source.

Lib Dem ed­u­ca­tion spokesman Liam Mcarthur said: “All the ev­i­dence shows com­mu­nity-based jus­tice pro­grammes and di­ver­sion­from-pros­e­cu­tion projects are far more suc­cess­ful in re­duc­ing re­of­fend­ing and heal­ing com­mu­ni­ties than short stints in prison.

“The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment’s recog­ni­tion last month is a sen­si­ble so­lu­tion for both of­fend­ers and com­mu­ni­ties.

“How­ever, the move must be cou­pled with suit­able new re­sources for com­mu­nity op­tions to match the real costs of sig­nif­i­cantly ex­pand­ing pro­vi­sion.

“Peo­ple who are com­ing through the jus­tice sys­tem must be sup­ported so they can be­come part of the com­mu­nity again.”

Karyn McCluskey helped lead Scot­land’s ground-break­ing Vi­o­lence Re­duc­tion Unit, above left, be­fore launch­ing Com­mu­nity Jus­tice Scot­land to en­cour­age of­fend­ers to leave crime be­hind

How do you get peo­ple to ad­dress their be­hav­iours, the driv­ers of their crimes? A lot of peo­ple who will not now go to jail will have ad­di­tional needs, such as lit­er­acy is­sues Vic­tims get the chance to look of­fend­ers in the eye and say, this is the...

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