Crime reduction

Scotland has an unparalleled opportunity to make real progress in tackling reoffending in our communities. The Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill offers the opportunity to introduce a presumption against imprisonment for short sentences in favour of a community sentence – the Community Payback Order.

This offers the potential for a radical change in how we address offending behaviour, grounded in a wealth of evidence which shows community penalties to be significantly more effective than short term custody.

Current reconviction figures show community penalties to be more than twice as effective as short-term custody in stopping reoffending, and the proposed improvements have potential to improve this rate even further.

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Aside from unpaid work, the Community Payback Order can include a requirement for the offender to attend treatment for alcohol or drug misuse, which is often the root cause of offending behaviour.

This change of emphasis from a simple punitive measure to a more sophisticated sanction that pays back to the community, challenges the root causes and addresses reoffending is a massively positive step.

This is a challenging option. Making offenders pay back for their crimes and actively tackle their underlying issues and behaviour is infinitely more difficult for them than another short stint in prison.

It will, of course, have to gain the confidence of the public and the courts. This means it will have to be implemented and resourced robustly and sentencers need to feel confident that breaches will be dealt with swiftly and effectively. It will require courage and a change in attitude on the part of us all but the benefits to be gained have the potential to make a significant contribution to a safer, more cohesive society.

Jailing offenders for a short time does nothing to rehabilitate them, nothing to challenge their behaviour and nothing to pay back to victims for the harm or damage they have caused. It exposes them to negative and damaging influences and overstretches prison resources at the expense of rehabilitation work with long-term prisoners.

Finland is a country of similar size to Scotland and has one of the lowest rates of crime in Europe. They rely more on community penalties as a sanction and in carcerate almost 60 per cent fewer people than Scotland. We must learn from the success of others and take the radical and progressive steps needed to reduce offending.

We call on all politicians to have the courage to support the Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Bill and make Scotland a safer place to live.




Howard League for Penal Reform in Scotland




Apex Scotland


Turning Point Scotland


Scottish Consortium on Crime and Criminal Justice