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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 January 2008, 11:38 GMT
'Radical' approach to reoffending
Andrew Black
Political reporter, BBC Scotland news website

Prison officer locking a door
Ministers want to see more use of community sentences
The Scottish Government has announced 3m funding for a programme to drive down reoffending rates.

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill launched the Turnaround project in Ayrshire, which aims to rehabilitate male offenders aged 16 to 30.

Mr MacAskill told BBC Scotland it was time for a radical approach to tackling the problem.

Ministers said community sentences were a better alternative than short jail terms for addressing reoffending.

The Conservatives have expressed concern about the policy, claiming the government was only interested in emptying prisons, while Labour and the Liberal Democrats have warned the policy should not put public safety at risk.

We believe less serious offenders currently cluttering our jails should be paying back their debts to society
Kenny MacAskill
Justice secretary

Turnaround aims to help offenders who have received multiple remand or short-term prison sentences and have failed in community-based alternatives - a group which makes up almost half the Scottish prison population.

The government has pointed out that Scotland sends more people to prison than almost any other country in Western Europe, and said it was now widely recognised that the strategy was not an effective way to cut reconviction rates.

Writing for the BBC Scotland news website, Mr MacAskill said one of society's biggest problems was how to offer damaged and damaging young men a path out of crime.

He said: "Prison places should be for serious and dangerous offenders. We will make sure that those offenders are properly managed throughout their sentence to reduce their risk to the public and stop them reoffending.

"We believe less serious offenders currently cluttering our jails should be paying back their debts to society - not adding to society's bill for their bed and board."

Turnaround, which will cover North Strathclyde and South West Scotland through a short-term residential unit and four day support projects, will give priority to those trying to cope with drink and drug abuse.

The project, overseen by the charity Turning Point Scotland, is based on the organisation's 218 women's service in Glasgow.

A third of its funding came from independent trusts and The Big Lottery.

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