We have also been tasked with “improving” the language that has been put forward in the actual bill itself. The term “offender” and ex-offender” appears in the introduction and we are now working with civil servants to come up with a form of words that underlines what Community Justice is about without using those pejorative and negative labels. This is most definitely a work in progress as any suggestions have to be cleared with the parliamentary drafters and legal team. The bill as it currently stands can be found on theScottish Parliament website.
However, it might have been good to have been given a statement of intent from the Scottish Government. There was no declaration as to what position they would have adopted had they been given this power. This is a question that should be put to all candidates in the forthcoming Scottish Parliament election…
The SHRC is committed to becoming the locus for any campaigns that will be running to defend the HRA and we will keep everyone up to date with any events and activities planned.
The Government are to be congratulated for the steps taken so far but there is still quite a bit to go…
We took part in the Government’s recent Working 2 Change seminar in Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. There were a number of progressive employers there who already take on people with convictions and provide support to help them hold down theirs jobs. What was significant was that all of the employers are already providing employment opportunities to people with convictions and thus far they have nothing but praise for the work ethic of those given a chance.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP made the opening ministerial address. His speech did not once refer to offenders or ex-offenders. This was part of our input to the changing use of language within the criminal justice system.
Project X and Nellie both made an appearance and the Minister was quite happy to pose for a picture in front of them…
Jim missed the ministerial address as he was engaged on Radio Scotland’s Morning Call show talking about the issues of employment and rehabilitation…
Any suggestions for improvement or for other aspects to cover in the brief would be very welcome and should be addressed to JusticeAnalysts@scotland.gsi.gov.uk.
Mr David Strang, Her majesty’s Chief Inspector of Prisons in Scotland, recently delivered the Time for reflection and his thoughts can be accessed on the Parliament’s website…
Reducing the abuse…
Our last two group meetings have been discussing the use and abuse of labelling and to continue the search for a new language and vocabulary to fit with the emerging agenda for change within the justice system in Scotland.
We had been asked to facilitate this discussion by the Scottish Government. The emerging agenda appears to be a positive move within Scotland for a progressive approach to be adopted by Government in an attempt to reduce the prison population and focus on alternatives to custody. This, in part, has been predicated on the decision not to go ahead with HMP Inverclyde as the National Women’s Centre for Imprisonment.
Therefore it follows that by using different language in dealing with matters, this might help to shift hardened and uncompromising attitudes within wider society that helps to usher in this new spirit of progressiveness. The rhetoric has to change from one that accuses others of being “soft on crime” to one where there is an acceptance that innovation and creativity can have a place within the system and that treating everyone with respect is something of value.
All being well it should have been possible to come up with words that worked for everyone in the room. If we managed this then it was highly likely the words we found realistic could be used in documents, speeches and presentations prepared by Scottish Government Ministers, civil servants and others, maybe even people in the media world (one can but dream…).
The second meeting was attended by over 60 people from a wide range of individuals and organisations including the Community Justice Policy Unit of the Scottish Government, Scottish Prison Service, Victim Support Scotland, COSLA, CJA’s, criminal justice social workers, the See Me campaign, the Prison Fellowship and academics alongside members of the public.
After two hours of debate and discussion around tables, a voting process and then yet more discussion it was agreed that we should use the words…
Person or People
…as the starting point followed by phrases such as…
with a conviction or
No elephant in the room, well except Nellie…
IRISS (The Institute for research and Innovation in Social Services) have produced their insight for Prison Leaves and Homelessness.
The main points to emerge from their research include: –
- Scotland has a strong legal framework for protecting people from homelessness
- Many prisoners become homeless when they leave prison
- A lack of stable accommodation increases the risk of (re-)offending
- Four groups of prison leavers face particular barriers: remand prisoners / those on short sentences; women; young people; those who are homeless on entering prison
- Key challenges for prison leavers are: limited accommodation options, location of accommodation and the complexity of needs they may experience
- Effective approaches to supporting prison leavers include: proactively providing advice and information on housing needs well before release; support after release to help sustain tenancies; working with other agencies and offering practical support first
This Insight was written by Emma Dore (Shelter Scotland) and edited by Ellen Daly (IRISS). The full report is available from the IRISS website.
The UK should introduce measures that allow all people with convictions to be potentially regarded as legally ‘rehabilitated’, and therefore not have to disclose their record to employers, according to a report published by Unlock.
Christopher Stacey, Director of Unlock (a charity for people with convictions), has put forward the proposal as part of a series of recommendations he’s made as a result of research carried out with the support of a Winston Churchill Memorial Trust Fellowship.
As part of the research, Christopher visited France, Spain and Sweden, where he looked at how the countries deal with criminal records, particularly in disclosing them for employment purposes. In Rehabilitation & Desistance vs Disclosure, Christopher reports on two main areas for each country – who has access to criminal records and how they’re used, and what systems the country has in place to protect or expunge records to minimise the collateral consequences of a criminal record.