Helping children off ‘motorway to prison’
Early intervention is crucial to divert children who have experienced domestic violence off a “motorway to Perth Prison”, Scotland’s education minister has said.
Perthshire North MSP and education secretary John Swinney said there was no doubt in his mind that most criminals had faced hardship as children.
Speaking during a Perth and Kinross Violence Against Women Partnership event yesterday, he said: “The overwhelming majority of prisoners in Perth Prison will, in my view, have gone through adverse childhood experiences which will have ultimately culminated in the behaviour that has led to them being incarcerated.
“The more young people are exposed to adverse childhood experiences, like witnessing domestic violence or experiencing abuse themselves, the more likely it is it will lead to the demonstration of behaviour that will be profoundly damaged as a consequence.
“If we do not properly support our children in overcoming, or ideally avoiding, adverse childhood experiences and if we don’t have in place instruments to overcome those experiences, essentially we create a motorway into Perth Prison.
“The connection and science of it is to me absolutely beyond doubt.”
Mr Swinney also told the audience at Perth Theatre that prisons had a role to play in reducing gender-based violence. The comments came after the Violence Against Women Partnership visited Perth Prison earlier this week to speak to offenders.
“Yes the prison service has to provide secure custody but they must also perform the task of changing attitudes and behaviour so that people are not making return visits to Perth Prison as a consequence of their behaviour,” he said. “We have to see prison as being about incarceration but also about change.
“The partnership has done us a great service by taking the message about domestic violence right into the prison to try to change behaviour.”