Discussion paper on...
the proposed Correctional Agency
In the 2003 Scottish Parliament Manifesto the
Labour Party proposed setting up
"…a single agency - the Correctional Service
for Scotland - staffed by professionals and covering prison and
community based sentences to maximise the impact of punishment,
rehabilitation and protection offered by our justice system."
The Partnership Agreement between Labour and
the Liberal Democrats states:
"We will publish proposals for consultation for
a single agency to deliver custodial and non-custodial sentences
in Scotland with the aim of reducing reoffending rates."
The proposals will be in a Consultation Document.
It was anticipated prior to the summer recess but didn't appear
and is now expected early in the autumn.
With no Consultation Document at present, the
constitution, remit and governance of the new Agency are all speculative.
This briefing gives a quick summary of the history of the proposals
and some UNISON concerns. It also sets out some possible arguments
both for and against the proposal - this is purely to inform discussion
about how best to approach the forthcoming consultation and parliamentary
progress of the Correctional Agency proposals.
Branches are invited to consider the issues raised
in this paper and suggest a UNISON position on the proposed Agency,
with arguments to counter the Executive's arguments in favour
of it. These will be used in the official response to the consultation
and any evidence given by UNISON on the Bill.
- All four main political parties in Scotland want to be seen
to be getting tougher on crime and making the public feel safer
in their communities.
- The coalition government has put forward proposals for tackling
anti-social behaviour, improving witness protection, making
greater use of community-based 'restorative justice' punishments
and making the courts system more efficient.
- Concerns have been expressed about the high rate of re-offending
in Scotland: recent Scottish Executive statistics say that 42%
of offenders are reconvicted within two years (broken down into
61% of this coming from custodial sentences, 42% from Community
Service Orders and 57% from probation).
- That two different organisations deal with custodial punishments
(SPS) and community-based sentences (Criminal Justice Social
Work) is seen as a barrier to greater use of community-based
- Single agencies are used in other countries - Denmark, Sweden
and Canada. It has been argued that those jurisdictions have
lower re-offending rates, make greater use of community-based
sentencing and have more successful rehabilitation programmes.
Arguments for a Correctional Agency
- Will provide a seamless transition for offenders sentenced
to custodial punishment from prison to community rehabilitation.
- Avoids duplication of administrative resources between the
SPS and criminal justice social work.
- Criminal justice social work is 100% ring-fence funded by
central government anyway so there is a limit to local control
at the moment.
- Will enable greater and more efficient use of community-based
restorative justice (which is the key theme of the recent proposals
to tackle anti-social behaviour).
- A new Agency will give a fresh start and help improve public
confidence in the criminal justice system.
- A single agency will improve public protection by removing
some of the potential for communication breakdown between the
custodial side and the community based side.
- It merely creates another quango to deal with an area currently
under local authority control and is another example of a centralising
government removing powers and responsibilities from local control.
- Although the service funding is ring-fenced local authorities
still have discretion over the programmes that can be adopted
and the manner of working with other local authority services.
- The culture clash and different ethos of the prison service
and social work.
- The inevitable disruption that would be caused in the transitional
phase between the existing system and the new Agency, which
could reduce public confidence in the service, and in the early
stages of the new Agency.
- Is this a way to gloss over a lack of funding for restorative
justice and rehabilitation programmes and a way of reducing
staffing levels in the interests of 'efficiency'? The Executive
have already stated that they do not expect the Correctional
Agency to cost more than the current figure for the SPS and
criminal justice social work provision, although they do expect
additional costs In the transitional period.
Possible lines of attack?
- What are the real reasons for the high rate of re-offending
in Scotland, other than perceived inefficiencies in the current
multi-agency set-up? Any examples of funding constraints? Recruitment
and retention difficulties? Would a new Agency help or hinder
recruitment and retention of staff?
- What are the real barriers to greater use of community-based
punishments and restorative justice? Funding and staffing levels
again? A reluctance by courts and Children's Panels to consider
them effective punishments?
- How else can public confidence in the criminal justice system
- Find out other organisations' attitudes to the proposals and
link in with them if appropriate: Howard League, APEX Scotland,
SACRO, Scottish Consortium on Crime and Criminal Justice. None
of these organisations have publicly stated their position on
the Correctional Agency yet.
Please submit any comments on this paper to the P&I team:
Dave Watson: firstname.lastname@example.org
@ the P&I Team
14 West Campbell St
Tel: 0845 355 0845
Fax: 0141 221 8953