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Last Updated: Monday, 6 December, 2004, 14:58 GMT
Minister unveils reoffending plan
Cathy Jamieson
Ms Jamieson unveiled plans at an offenders project in Edinburgh
New measures offering some persistent offenders an alternative to prison have been unveiled by the justice minister.

Cathy Jamieson's new Criminal Justice Plan will aim to tackle Scotland's high reoffending rate.

It includes the extension of electronic tagging to include a "community curfew" for selected prisoners.

Ministers will also be given new powers to intervene if the Scottish Prison Service (SPS) or local councils fail to address their reoffending problems.

According to official statistics, eight out of 10 male offenders under the age of 21 are likely to be reconvicted within two years of serving a sentence of six months or less.

New initiatives

Under its plans, the Scottish Executive aims to tackle the issue head on through various new initiatives including:

  • Introducing home detention curfews, monitored by electronic tags, allowing low-risk prisoners to spend the last part of their sentence in the community. If their curfew is broken they will be returned to prison

  • A new national programme, based on the Constructs programme in West Dunbartonshire, which will be able to deal with up to 500 young male offenders a year from 2005

  • Creating a national advisory board for offender management, with members drawn from across criminal justice services, to develop a national strategy to reduce reoffending across Scotland

  • Making it a statutory requirement for SPS and local authorities to work together to reduce reoffending through local area partnerships

  • Bringing local councils' criminal justice services together into new Community Justice Authorities to ensure the local areas partnerships are joined-up

Launching her proposals on Monday, Ms Jamieson said there were no "simple or easy solutions" to tackling crime and offending in Scotland.

"Creating a safer Scotland cannot be achieved solely through strong, visible frontline policing or the deterrent of prison.

"We also need a joined up approach across our criminal justice services that focuses on reducing reoffending inside and outside of prison.

"We know a person who has committed an offence is less likely to reoffend if he or she has their family to support them, stable accommodation, a job or the training to help them find one, and assistance with drug, alcohol or other health problems.

Bill Aitken
Bill Aitken: Community safety concern
"The key to this is reforming the relationship between the Scottish Prison Service and Scotland's 32 local council social work departments."

However, opposition parties said they were concerned with the executive's plans.

Scottish Conservative MSP Bill Aitken said: "The executive clearly regards emptying the jails as its first priority and to hell, frankly, with the safety of communities."

SNP justice spokesman Kenny MacAskill added: "The root causes of crime are poverty and degradation and until we address drink, drugs and poverty we won't go forward."

The plan was drawn up following an executive consultation earlier this year.

The legislative changes to bring the SPS and local council's closer together will be included in a bill to be introduced to parliament early next year.

It is hoped the minister's proposals will come into full effect by 2008.

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