The number of young people in Scottish prisons has fallen dramatically according to new figures, which show that there are 399 young men and women aged 21 and under in prison, compared to a daily average of around 1000 in 2007.
Polmont, Scotland’s main facility for young offenders, which was “dangerously overcrowded” in 2007 has seen a dramatic reduction in inmates – with a capacity of 784, there are now 272 inmates serving a sentence and 112 on remand. Just 17 young women in this age group are in prison.
The Scottish Government has, in recent years, introduced a range of initiatives to address youth offending and reoffending, advocating a “whole systems approach” to dealing with young people engaging in behaviour that puts them in jeopardy of custodial sentences . Alternatives to custody play a key role in this approach, as do intensive programmes of support that work to address offending behaviour. Better partnership working between local authorities, the police and the third sector has contributed to the success of such programmes in reducing offending and keeping young people out of custody.
GCVS member, Includem, works with young people whose behaviour exposes them or others to risk, using cognitive tools to help young people understand why their behaviour is a threat to their wellbeing, or to those around them. The award-winning team works intensively with young people at risk of offending or reoffending, who have often been in the care and/or justice system and may have chaotic backgrounds and home lives. Includem works with young people, their families and carers, to rebuild relationships, establish routines and change harmful behaviour. They will never turn down a referral because the young person in question is thought to be too difficult, sticking to the principle that “no young person is beyond help”. Despite this, they have an excellent record of success. Alan is just one of the many young people Includem have worked intensively with to improve lives, relationships and prospects. Read his story here
Speaking about the falling prison numbers, Michael Shanks, Policy and Communications Manager at Includem, said,
“The latest statistics showing fewer young people in prison is a strong indication that initiatives to reduce offending and reoffending are working.
“Includem’s own programme – IMPACT – has recently been independently evaluated and was found to have reduced offending by half for those young people involved, including a drop in the social and economic costs of violent offending from £10,259 per young person prior to involvement in the programme to £122 after involvement.
“It is essential that we recognise that it is initiatives like this that are keeping young people out of prison and moving them forward away from a life of offending. These programmes must be maintained if we are to continue to see a decline in the prison population”
While programmes like those offered by Includem are keeping young people out of prison, falling inmate numbers are giving the prison service and their partners more opportunities to help rehabilitate young people who are in custody, helping to break the cycle of reoffending and providing opportunities for young people to move forward with their lives.
The Scottish Government is now consulting on the law surrounding the Rehabilitation of Offenders, which sets out specific proposals to allow more people with previous criminal activity to be able to move away from their past offending behaviour and to reduce the length of time most people will have to disclose their previous criminal activity. When enacted, these proposals will allow people who have offended in the past to move on with their lives, without the stigma often associated the disclosure of being an ex-offender, which can be detrimental to getting a job and leaving offending behind.
Find out more about what Includem does here
Visit the Scottish Government website for more information on what is being done to tackle reoffending.