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A joined-up justice system is needed to build a safer, more equal, healthier Scotland

BLOGS | 9th December 2020

As part of our Talking Justice blog series, Amelia Morgan, Venture Trust CEO, explains why a joined-up justice system helps improve lives

“The life that I have now is brilliant compared to what it was like. I thought I was a failure and that I was going to die in that horrible existence of addiction, prison, violence and fear.” Stephen

“I’m in a brilliant place. I get up every day and it’s not drugs I think about. I want to go to college, I want to eat well, sleep well and be healthy. Venture Trust believed in me. They gave me the support and the drive and it’s changed my life.”  Lucy

It wasn’t a prison sentence that allowed Stephen and Lucy to make a better life for themselves after getting caught up in Scotland’s criminal justice system. It was a decision to keep them out of prison. A decision that offered a second chance and an opportunity to access support to address the underlying issues that had led them to appear in front of the court.

Too often for many people, living with the constant pressure of poverty, inequality or past trauma, the impact on wellbeing and relationships leaves them isolated from their communities, feeling unable to take part in society or access the support services they need. And all too often this has a negative influence on their lives including the harm of crime.

Evidence shows short prison sentences don’t work if the aim of sending someone to prison is to rehabilitate them. They are enough to disrupt employment, medical care, housing, and family relationships, but not long enough to tackle the true causes of offending behaviour. People jailed for a few months come back out even further from finding a route out of crime than they were when they went in.

A joined-up justice system is making Scotland a safer country. This includes services such as courts, police, and social work, that work across different stages of the Scottish justice system and dovetailed with support services in health, housing, employability and education. These vital services all work together in different ways and at various stages of the justice process to tackle the underlying causes of crime – by offering treatment, rehabilitation, training and support – to prevent offending, repair lives and make Scotland a safer place to live.

At Venture Trust we are committed to community justice because we know it works better than short sentences at reducing re-offending. But to be effective it needs to be an equal partner within the framework of the Scottish justice system. Community justice needs to be resourced, be an integral part of the system that the courts can rely on when passing sentence and deliver results. Getting the right expertise in place is crucial to making the system work. This means investing in specialist providers, but also in ensuring that there is collaboration and integration between services that will ensure people get the right level of supervision and intervention.

The best way to steer someone away from crime is to empower them with the tools and skills to make better decisions and to show them that they do have a positive part to play in their community.

Building positive relationships, getting away from negative influences, getting ready to get and hold on to a job, and just believing in themselves have a huge impact on people’s desire to build a better life.

Scottish charity Venture Trust delivers intensive personal development in Scotland’s outdoors and communities – challenging people on criminal justice orders to confront the attitudes and behaviours that have led them into the justice system. It gives them the capability and motivation to leave that behind and take responsibility for building a better future for themselves and their families. Find out more:

Our Talking Justice blog series brings together reflections from across our society. We are committed to changing the conversation about justice, increasing understanding and support for what will make Scotland better for all of us. To that end, we have have created a resource that maps out the Scottish justice system. This has been developed into an interactive digital tool: Navigating Scotland’s Justice System.