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MSPs Briefing - Executive Debate on Reducing Re-offending
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MSPs Briefing - Executive Debate on Reducing Re-offending

Introduction

On Thursday 29th April the Parliament will debate an Executive motion on reducing re-offending and improving the effectiveness of custodial and non-custodial sentences. UNISON Scotland welcomes this debate in the Scottish Parliament, particularly given the current Executive consultation exercise on reducing re-offending and the proposals contained therein to radically restructure the criminal justice system in Scotland

This briefing covers this issue and related matters that may be raised during the debate.

UNISON Scotland believes that many of the proposals outlined in the current Executive consultation document are falsely premised on the assumption that sentencing systems alone can have a significant impact on reducing re-offending. We believe that they cannot. UNISON Scotland believes that it is essential that custodial sentencing is integrated with other services that aim both to build offenders' capabilities and provide realistic opportunities for moving away from law-breaking lifestyles. It is the opinion of our members in Social Work Criminal Justice (SWCJ) services that properly resourced community-based disposals are more effective in reducing re-offending than imprisonment.

UNISON Scotland is strongly opposed to Executive proposals for the establishment of a single agency to deliver custodial and non-custodial sentences. Our opposition to the merging of Social Work Criminal Justice (SWCJ) services with the Prison Service is based on the following factors;

1. The policy does not fit the stated objective

There has been no explanation by Ministers as to how creating a centralised single correctional agency will achieve the objective of reducing re-offending rates. There is certainly no evidence to support the supposition that merging Social Work Criminal Justice services with the Prison Service will reduce re-offending. Evidence from international research and from Scottish studies shows that non-custodial sentences and probation are more effective in reducing the likelihood of re-offending than custodial sentences.

2. Social Work Criminal Justice services are not failing

There is no evidence to suggest that Social Work Criminal Justice services in Scotland are not working. The Executives concerns in regards to sentencing and re-offending are not indicative of failures of social work. There are countless examples of how, when supplied with the appropriate resources, local authority Social Work Criminal Justice teams are successful in addressing re-offending behaviour, making communities safer and preventing the need for custodial sentences.

3. The existence of a different ethos between the Prison Service and the Social Work system.

The SWCJ workforce is an extremely well qualified and experienced workforce, who have built up excellent local knowledge of the communities in which they work. They work closely with other agencies, view themselves as an integral component of the wider social work service and crucially deliver a 'social work service' within criminal justice.

UNISON Scotland fails to see how shoehorning SWCJ services into a single agency, whose dominant mode of delivery will be based on 'correctional' and 'punitive' measures will help reduce re-offending rates. There is little, if any, evidence of correctional services being able to effectively integrate with other services such as social work services and to excel in developing the wider welfare role that is the strength of criminal justice social work services.

4. Diversion of resources away from front-line services into unaccountable quango

UNISON Scotland believes that the establishment of yet another unelected quango would further weaken local democracy and reduce further the involvement of locally elected representatives in the provision of services to offenders. A new quango would mean the removal of yet more vital services from local democratic control in addition to making it immeasurably more difficult to exploit the close working relationship between the various local authority services social work, housing, education and community services and between councils and other public and voluntary sector agencies.

 

Contacts list:

Dave Watson - d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572

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Further Information

Contacts list:

Dave Watson -
d.watson@unison.co.uk

@ The P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Glasgow G26RX
Tel 0845 355 0845
Fax 0141-307 2572