Help­ing chil­dren off ‘motorway to prison’

The Courier & Advertiser (Perth and Perthshire Edition) - - NEWS -

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.”

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