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Reducing ineffective short prison terms: We must recognise that people can change

Prevention and ­rehabilitation are ­fundamental to creating safer ­communities in Scotland and ­tackling the harm caused by crime.

Venture Trust welcomes the Scottish Government's commitment to encouraging the greater use of more effective community sentences to break cycles of reoffending.

On May 17th, the Government published an order to extend presumption against short prison sentences. Subject to the approval of Parliament, the existing presumption will be extended from three to 12 months and come into force this summer.

Venture Trust CEO Amelia Morgan said: “At Venture Trust, we would argue that we need to place far greater emphasis on rehabilitation in addition to unpaid work as part of any community sentence to facilitate behaviour change and assist more individuals to reduce their risk of reoffending and complete their sentence. Independent evaluations show our criminal justice programmes have had positive impacts on individuals. They have gained new skills, improved their confidence and have started working or studying. They are more stable and less likely to reoffend. These positive changes are then transferred to their families and communities.”

Statistics show people released from a custodial sentence of 12 months or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those sentenced to serve a Community Payback Order (CPO).

Often it was poverty, inequality and adverse childhood experiences and the trauma resulting from domestic abuse, addiction to drugs and ­alcohol that underpinned offending behaviour, Amelia said.

“Addressing underlying causes and taking a compassionate approach will reduce the impacts of crime. It means believing people can change and can come back from their mistakes. Someone’s past – where they grew up, their family background or previous negative and damaging experiences – does not have to define them. Diverting more people away from the justice system does create safer communities. It does break the cycle of offending and reduce the social harm and financial costs for individuals, families and communities.”

Investing in reliable and effective community provision and a collaborative public and third sector response will help people get their lives back on track and away from potential involvement in crime.

Our intensive personal development and the powerful catalyst of the outdoors helps people gain greater understanding with confidence in themselves and how they connect with others and the wider world leading to lasting positive change. Importantly individuals are more able to overcome setbacks and navigate ‘systems’, such as accessing benefits, securing and sustaining a suitable home and staying out of prison.

A former Venture Trust participant highlights the benefits of trying to divert individuals – where it is possible – away from prison. “Before Venture Trust I was on a one-way ticket to prison. I’m now a fully qualified plumber. My life’s changed for the better, I’m healthier, happier, thriving. I’ve got a career now, I can see a future.”

Lucy has also benefitted from Venture Trust’s community justice programmes. “Without that second chance and the support from Venture Trust and other organisations I wouldn’t be where I am today. That second chance allowed me to become part of society and my community again. It allowed me to repair broken relationships, get healthy, get an education and have hope. We’ve all made mistakes and if more people are given the support and opportunity to change, Scotland will be a better and safer place.”

Watch Lucy's Story by clicking on the image below:

Venture Trust is looking forward to continuing to work with the Scottish Government and our current partners along with building future partnerships to reduce the harm of crime by supporting people who have offended or are at risk of offending.

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