Scotland's first national strategy for offender management aimed at reducing re-offending and creating safer communities was launched today.
For the first time there will be a set of common aims and expected outcomes centred on increased public protection and delivering a consistent approach to managing offenders in prison and in the community.
Each CJA will develop plans under five key themes:
* Setting priorities - to ensure resources are targeted for maximum benefit to make a tangible difference to local communities, victims and offenders. This will also ensure that agencies prioritise the management of the most serious sexual and violent offenders
* Working together in new ways - to ensure organisations involved in offender management work together effectively and consistently, and provide seamless support to offenders to change their offending behaviour
* Developing and supporting the workforce - to make the best use of existing skills and experience and enable staff to build on that, so they can play their part in improving working practices to reduce re-offending
* Communications - to improve local understanding of what happens in prisons, what community sentences involve and how well these services are performing
* Measure, learning and spreading best practice - to help improve the way we measure reoffending, the factors which have an impact on this and the effectiveness of the various measures which can be used to reduce it
Justice minister Cathy Jamieson said:
'The criminal justice system is undergoing the most radical, comprehensive series of reforms in a generation. The Management of Offenders Act is a key part of that - providing the framework to end the revolving door of re-offending, challenge offenders to return to a law-abiding lifestyle, and create safer, stronger communities.
'Scotland's first national strategy on offender management will support those efforts by giving direction to all agencies who work with offenders, in particular our new community justice authorities who will be responsible for working with local authorities, the Scottish Prison Service and other partners to deliver the results that hard pressed communities have the right to expect. Their job is to tackle offending and provide better outcomes for victims, their families and the wider community. In addition, but not at the expense of the law-abiding majority, we also want to see better outcomes for offenders in terms of turning round their often chaotic lives.
'I do not underestimate the scale of the challenge that lies ahead. Establishing common goals, integrating the work of different agencies, promoting cultural change, delivering more effective services, and ensuring a better way of measuring reductions in offending will take commitment at all levels and among all partners.
'However, I believe we have a historic opportunity and obligation to break down the barriers that sometimes hold our staff back from working closely together and transform the way we manage offenders. If we can do that, we will take a major step forward in reducing re-offending and improving community safety across Scotland.'
COSLA social work and health improvement spokesman, Eric Jackson, said:
'COSLA is pleased to see the launch of Scotland's first strategy for offender management. In partnership we have achieved a lot - all eight criminal justice authorities have now met and most have appointed their chief officers.
'There are still major challenges ahead particularly getting everyone around the table to address problems of re-offending. This is, after all, not solely an agenda for councils and the Scottish Prison Service - we need to engage effectively with sheriffs, the Enterprise network about getting ex-offenders back into work and the wider voluntary sector. Another challenge is changing our ways of working so that we are better at working across professional and institutional boundaries to deliver our shared goals.'
The National Strategy for the Management of Offenders has been produced by the National Advisory Body on Offender Management in discussion with stakeholders.
The recently-established NAB, chaired by the minister, will meet several times a year and play a central role in shaping long-term national strategy.
It will also provide advice to the minister on specific issues including on-going review of the national strategy and approving the local area plans produced by CJAs to tackle re-offending, and the performance reports which CJAs will eventually produce.
The strategy will run to the end of 2007-08. A revised, three-year strategy will be issued in 2007, in light of the NAB's discussions and work.