MISTAKES. Anyone can make them. The challenge is to own them, learn from them, and be the better person for it. When it comes to offending, it’s important to make amends or reparation where others have been hurt from wrongdoing.

I come from the Johnny Cash school of thought. There has to be the possibility of redemption for people otherwise there is no hope. If there is no hope the world can grind to a halt for someone. Being trapped in a cycle of desperation, self-loathing, addiction, lashing out, unable to cope, is a dark place with no future for anyone.

For those who end up in Scotland’s criminal justice system, we know that short custodial sentences have increased reoffending and haven’t helped anyone. Jailing someone because they haven’t got the money to pay a fine has never made any economic or social sense and yet we did it for decades; in every court, every day.

That’s why we now have alternatives to custody like Community Payback Orders (CPOs). These are community based sentences supervised by social workers that enable an offender to consider the impact of their crime on victims. These orders may include unpaid community work, and the requirement to participate in treatment for addiction or engage with different support services.

Yet we have hit an impasse with CPOs. The breach rate by offenders who fail to comply with CPOs has remained largely static in recent years. The dial has been stuck at around a quarter to one third of orders being breached. Such failures can mean sheriffs lose confidence in CPOs as an effective alternative to prison, as well as missing the objective of reducing reoffending.

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We need strong leadership and new thinking if we are help more offenders reintegrate and contribute to their local community. In Glasgow, the Wise Group is a social enterprise that has pioneered new approaches to reducing reoffending across Scotland and the North East of England. Its experience of working with prisoners provides the key to making CPOs a greater success.

The Wise Group’s New Routes Mentoring (NRM) programme provides mentoring to male offenders six months before release, and after they are released from prison to help them reintegrate into their community. NRM is delivered across 13 prisons in Scotland supporting over 700 people a year. It works. 83% of customers make progress against their needs. Only one in 10 prisoners who are mentored return to prison within a year of completing NRM. The service recently removed its age limits for access and demand has now doubled. Its early intervention programme seeks to divert young people aged 11 to 14 from offending or criminal activity. Prevention at a much younger age can divert someone from a life of crime.

The Wise Group’s Chief Executive, Sean Duffy said, “Mentoring is proven to support the engagement of people to the services they need and it’s proven to improve attitudes and behaviours towards offending. Mental health, addiction and employment are the top three needs which offenders of CPOs said lead to their reoffending – so let’s treat those and a mentoring approach is the super glue that sticks them to the services they need”.

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It’s clear to me that there is a gap in Scotland for a different type of CPO, utilising the experience and lessons learnt from the work of the Wise Group. The vision of the Group is to create an enhanced CPO that targets each person’s particular needs linked to reoffending, and supports them to complete the order successfully.

Working with social work services, we need a package of mentoring, with mental health, addiction and employment support to make new inroads to reducing offending. We also have to target other advice services if we are serious about creating more successful routes out of criminal behaviour.

We know that other obstacles for offenders resettling into society are a lack of accommodation, universal credit and the inability to access statutory services. Govan Law Centre has been working with the Wise Group in Glasgow to minimise the incidence of homelessness when prisoners are liberated on a Friday. It works.

Support for the families of offenders is equally vital, as they have to pick up their own pieces when someone is convicted. The hope of rebuilding good relationships with family members is a powerful motivator for changing behaviour. We know it works.

What is missing at present is a joined-up strategic approach that pulls together all of the things we know can help end criminal behaviour. Mentoring, and a full range of wrap around support services tailored to each person will cut reoffending. For a relatively small investment we can reap much bigger rewards across our communities.