From education to employment

But is he Missing the Point on Re-Offending?

Echoing the statement from Prime Minister Tony Blair that the new “Respect” campaign was to be a cornerstone of Government policy, Scottish First Minister Jack McConnell stated his intention to make “respect” just as central in Scotland.

In a speech to MSPs in which he also stressed the positive impact that devolution was having on Scotland ““ speaking of entering a “new phase”, finding “Scottish success through Scottish ambition” rather than “Scottish solutions to Scottish problems” and emphasising that he wished Scotland to be defined on “a global scale” rather that in relation to England ““ he outlined his intentions on matters including tougher approaches towards crime and enforcement.

Tougher on Crime”¦

He recognises that times have changed, and as they have, crimes have also metamorphosed in new and challenging directions. Speaking in the Holyrood Parliament he stated his intention to bring to fruition a campaign creating safer communities for the people of Scotland. And it is quite clear that what he sees to be the best means for accomplishing these ends is a toughening of the approach to crime. As he put it, with the current legislation there is “no excuse for non-action against the misery of disorder, vandalism and anti-social behaviour”.

The justice system is to be reformed and modernised, and a new Police, Public Order and Criminal Justice Bill will “improve police effectiveness and further improve community safety”. This will incorporate mandatory drug testing for those arrested on drug related crimes; introducing football banning orders to curb hooliganism; increase the penalty for carrying a knife; identify suspects of crime more effectively; and prevent the anti ““ social use of fireworks.

And on the theme of enforcement, he pledged that Scotland would meet “persistence with persistence” alongside a reform of bail and arrest procedures. Jack McConnell said to MSPs: “By challenging offending behaviour and addressing the needs of each young person, we help them help themselves. But, for the small core of prolific and persistent youngsters who undermine themselves and their communities, we will meet persistence with persistence.”

“¦But What About The Causes?

As necessary as this may be ““ and undoubtedly increasing the efficiency of the police and justice systems is implicit in a successful and functioning democracy, as crime serves to rob individual citizens of their personal freedom of safety, expression and ownership ““ it seems that, yet again, Government is ignoring the vast swathe of information that indicates the need to educate offenders, and indeed the effectiveness of this course as a tool to combat offenders returning to criminal activity.

The figures really speak for themselves. It is estimated that 70% of the UK prison population are illiterate. This is made all the clearer when one considers that 58% of all adult prisoners, 72% of 18-20 year-old male prisoners, and 85% of 14-17 year-old male prisoners are currently re-convicted within two years of release. From the economic standpoint, this costs the tax payer an estimated £11 billion each year.

So, as much as a successful programme cutting crime is necessary and desirable, it fails to tackle one of the toughest causes to address, and one of the causes most often ignored.

Jethro Marsh

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