Scottish government backs preventative agenda on crime

Ministers announced new approach to stop reoffending and reduce prison numbers

The Scottish government has announced a new agenda focused on crime prevention to tackle the problem of overcrowded prisons.

Justice Secretary Michael Matheson announced that the new approach will see two “community-based” units for women will be built in Glasgow and either Fife or Dundee.

A small prison for around 80 women will be built at Cornton Vale to replace the jail being demolished there. The current jail was built to imprison 217 women, but the population soared to 350.

If follows the recommendations of a commission led by the former Lord Advocate, Dame Elish Angiolini, that the prison estate should be for high-risk and long-term offenders.

The new community facilities will focus on the recovery of damaged women, and allow them more time with their families.

The Holyrood administration has introduced a series of changes to sentencing and rehabilitation in a bid to stop the cycle of reoffending that saw huge numbers of people in and out of jail on a short-term basis.

Matheson said the preventive approach to youth justice, one focused on early intervention to keep teenagers out of the criminal justice system, had already had an impact.

Scotland has seen a 64% fall in the number of under-18s in custody since 2006.

Our decisive shift in approach to youth justice has seen huge falls in youth offending

“Our criminal and civil justice system, and the valued professionals who sustain it, are focused on building a safer and a fairer Scotland – protecting the public while supporting individuals and families facing financial, emotional or other crises,” said Matheson.

“Our decisive shift in approach to youth justice, intervening earlier and providing multi-agency support, has seen huge falls in youth offending and we continue to draw lessons from that success.”

Matheson added: “While our imprisonment rate – the second highest in western Europe – remains too high, prisons will always be necessary for those who commit the most serious offences, or who pose significant risks to public safety.”

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