Page last updated at 09:07 GMT, Thursday, 23 July 2009 10:07 UK

Project to 'turnaround' offenders

The project will act as an alternative to short-term prison sentences

An initiative to help persistent offenders end their cycle of petty crime has opened in Renfrewshire.

The Turnaround project will offer 10 young men help to tackle the reasons behind their offending over an eight-week period.

If successful, the £1.5m scheme could form part of the Scottish Government's attempt to end short-term jail sentences.

The initiative builds on four similar community-based schemes.

Ministers and other commentators have previously agreed that short prison sentences of six months or less, typically handed out for minor crimes, do not work.

Offenders often serve just half the term, meaning prisons can do little meaningful work with them. In many cases they re-offend and return to court.

The Turnaround residential project, based in Paisley, aims to address that failing cycle.

If we can successfully turn around some of these lives, we help not only the young men but their families and their communities
Kenny MacAskill MSP
Justice Secretary

It is the result of a partnership between three national voluntary sector agencies - Turning Point Scotland (TPS), Apex Scotland and the Venture Trust.

It will offer intensive support to offenders aged between 16 and 30.

Martin Cawley, chief executive of Turning Point Scotland (TPS), said: "We hope that the new Turnaround unit will provide a unique opportunity for individuals to access structured support to tackle their offending, substance misuse and associated behaviours, and ultimately have a positive impact on both the lives of the individual and those living in the local community.

"We believe that people can and do recover from the difficulties associated with offending. We take a person-centred and needs-led approach to help service users consider their offending, its causes, the impact on victims and communities and help them move forward with their lives."

Complex problems

Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill said: "Short-term prison sentences do little to address the underlying causes of offending, but projects like this one can solve the root problem.

"Complex problems don't always require complex solutions, but they are more likely to be dealt with effectively if different agencies bring together and share their expertise.

"That is why the young men who are referred to Turnaround will benefit from the support and advice that is best tailored for their needs."

He added: "If we can successfully turn around some of these lives, we help not only the young men themselves but their families and their communities."

Four similar community-based projects are being run in Irvine, Kilmarnock, Greenock and Dumbarton.

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