Venture Trust: Committed to community justice
The Scottish Government has released the Criminal Justice Social Work statistics in Scotland: 2018-19
Here is our response to the report.
Commitment to community justice
Venture Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s commitment to community justice and believes that it has a big role to play in making Scotland’s communities safer. To make it work effectively the third sector, the courts, and local and national governments need to work together to create a system that is robust, reliable and provides the right level of supervision and support to those on orders. That is partly about making sure there are enough places on community justice programmes to meet demand; it is also about making community sentencing an integral part of our justice system in the same way that prison sentencing is.
It’s About Smart Justice. Not Soft Justice
Community justice does work better than short sentences at preventing re-offending, but it needs to be treated as an equal partner: not just in terms of getting the resources it needs but as an integral part of the system that the courts can rely on when passing sentence. Particularly when dealing with people with more severe problems, getting the right expertise in place is crucial to making the system work. This means investing in specialist providers, but also in ensuring that the system is set up to allow the collaboration and integration between services that will ensure people get the right level of supervision and intervention.
Problem: Short prison sentences don’t rehabilitate
Short prison sentences are enough to disrupt employment, medical care, housing and family relationships, but not long enough to tackle the underlying causes of offending behaviour. People jailed for a few months come back out even further from finding a route out of crime than they were when they went in.
We know that many of the people we work with through the criminal justice system have lived through deprivation: poor education, poverty, substance misuse, poor family relationships and mental health issues are all too frequent among our clients. Growing up in poverty, in care, or in traumatic circumstances doesn’t directly equate to ending up in court but these experiences do influence people’s lives negatively, often leaving them isolated from their communities, surrounded by negative influences and feeling unable to take part in society.
Solution: Rehabilitation through personal responsibility, self-confidence and chance of positive role in society
Our work challenges people on criminal justice orders to confront the attitudes and behaviours that have got them here and gives them the capability and motivation to leave that behind and take responsibility for building a better future for themselves and their families.
Through a combination of work in the community and an intense wilderness expedition, we help clients reflect on the choices they make and how these will affect both themselves and others. This is not the easy option and it does not let people off lightly. But unlike a short sentence in prison, we show people new ways to cope with stress and confrontation that help them avoid re-offending.
The best way to steer someone away from crime is to empower them with the tools and skills to make better decisions and to show them that they do have a positive part to play in their community. Building positive relationships, getting away from negative influences, getting ready to get and hold on to a job, and just believing in themselves have a huge impact on people’s desire to build a better life.
Community justice does create safer communities, does break the cycle of offending and does reduce the social harm and financial costs of crime for individuals, families and communities.