A multi-agency team at Low Moss prison outside Glasgow will work with inmates from their arrival until up to a year after they have been released back into the community.
By addressing some of the root causes of offending behaviour among short-term prisoners, such as addiction and mental health issues, it is hoped they will not be drawn back to crime.
Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill officially launched the three-year pilot Prisoner Support Pathway at Low Moss today.
He said: “Crime is at its lowest level in 39 years but we are still seeing too many people, and often the same people, returning time and time again to our prisons. Without support when they return to the community, the problems of addiction, homelessness, mental health and unemployment are often too difficult for these individuals to deal with.
“This Public Social Partnership (PSP) provides the practical help and encouragement these often vulnerable people need to overcome whatever led them to prison in the first place, and to break the cycle of reoffending.”
Since May 237 prisoners and ex-prisoners have been involved with the programme.
One of the first to sign up, a 32-year-old repeat offender known only as Brian, said leaving jail could be a struggle when it came to arranging accommodation and getting access to benefits and medication.
Some prisoners find they have been deregistered by their doctor’s practice on their release.
He said about leaving jail: “Your head’s bursting and you’re unsure what’s going to happen. This time I had PSP there to take me to my doctors and then to my granny’s. I never had that before - I was just put out the door.”
Michael Stoney, governor of Low Moss, said: “Since making the PSP available, the initial response from those in our custody has been extremely encouraging, and I believe the scheme has the potential to make a real and lasting difference to the lives of those in our custody, and contribute towards a safer and stronger Scotland.”
The group of agencies taking part in the pilot include North Strathclyde and Glasgow Community Justice Authorities, NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and Turning Point Scotland
The scheme has received funding from the Scottish Government, the Robertson Trust and the Big Lottery Fund.