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MEETING THE CHALLENGE FROM THE ROOTS UP

AT THE CENTRE OF COMMUNITY JUSTICE ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED SUPPORT 
By TOM JACKSON – Head of Community Justice Glasgow.

The last few years have brought many challenges to a wide range of Glasgow’s citizens with high levels of deprivation and inequality in relation to access to health, housing, food, education, employment and income opportunities across the city.  There is much great work going on the City and this has had an impact that those working across the City can be proud of.

Our overarching purpose is to reduce re-offending and re-conviction rates across Glasgow.  We work hard to improve outcomes for our citizens, both those caught up in the Justice System through an effective partnership, joint strategy and Action Plan, to co-ordinate and deliver the services that tackle the underlying drivers (root causes) of offending behaviour, and for the victims and communities in which crime has a significant and lasting impact.  You can see from Table 1 and Graphs 1 & 2 below, the positive distance travelled in regard to these high level indicators.

Recently published Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) Data (January 2020) shows that 18.9% or 141 of Glasgow’s 746 Data Zones (Scotland divided into 6,976 areas containing 760 people) were in the top 5% most deprived in Scotland, with 45% or 339 in the most deprived 20%.  SIMD is complicated, but in summary it looks across 7 markers (domains) of deprivation: employment; income; crime; housing; health; education; and access to services. 

Table 1 shows how some of that hard work in Glasgow has paid off.  Overall within Scotland, Glasgow is ranked 2nd in terms of deprivation but as you can see progress has been made between 2016 and 2020 figures.

Although the data shows signs of improvement, a quick search of the Trussell Trust foodbank finder (Figure 1) (21/04/2020) showed 15 of their food banks operating across Glasgow.  A further search of the Urban Roots (Figure 2) website shows in excess of 40 more being delivered by other independent organisations / charities.  In contrast, in 2009 the Trussell Trust operated only one foodbank across the whole of Scotland.  These are still challenging times and factors such as deprivation and the Covid 19 Pandemic we know has a knock on effect in terms of offending.

So why am I telling you this? – Broadly speaking the people from our communities who come into contact with the Criminal Justice system come from the most deprived areas of our city, they are much more likely to have grown up experiencing many or indeed most of the markers used to calculate SIMD. 

There is a strong evidenced, link between severe and multiple disadvantage and offending behaviour.  The people who come in contact with the system are also much more likely to have experienced Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), see for example, Understanding Childhood Adversity, Resilience and Crime – A Summary of Evidence or click on the link (below) to a short documentary film.

I’m not laying the paving for excuses – crime and offending leaves behind it individual victims and scarred communities – with often long lasting impact. It is a simple fact though, that these factors (deprivation and ACEs) grow the roots that can lead people down the wrong path – a RIPPLE EFFECT[1].  If we don’t tackle the roots, then the problem will keep growing and coming back to the surface – this is the HARD EDGES[2] of Community Justice.

We also need to acknowledge that not only do many perpetrators come from our most deprived communities, so do the victims.  And the picture is far more complex, as most of those who are found guilty of an offense, have at times been the victim of a crime. If we are not addressing the underlying drivers of crime, we are perpetuating ill effects in communities.

It is a well evidenced fact that short-term prison sentence are ineffective at tackling the root causes of offending.  Our Prison Service does great work and there are many wonderful services, some of which you will get to know in further articles in this publication,  delivered by both Public and 3rd Sector providers accessible to those serving a longer term custodial sentence. 

Unfortunately for those serving short-term sentences or on remand (untried) – around 70% of the prison population –  most of these services are not available to them.  The short nature of their stay means that they are often unable to complete programmes or have the time needed for services to have an impact prior to release.

Community options such as Community Payback Orders, Supervised Bail, Diversion from Prosecution and Drug Treatment & Testing Orders, allow more opportunities for positive interventions to support a person to access the services they need to confront and deal with the root causes and underlying drivers of their behaviour,  in order to move on from criminality.  Ultimately, this improves safety in our communities and reduces the likelihood of individuals experiencing a crime.  For an explanation of these options click on the picture link below to our publication A Summary of Community Options.

At Community Justice Glasgow, our purpose is to co-ordinate and lead a collaborative partnership to ensure that we have the right systems in place, infrastructure, resources and tools available to tackle the root causes of offending behaviour, ensuring that the right services are available, at the right time, at every point of the justice journey, and that all of our citizens have an opportunity to flourish and lead a life that makes a positive contribution to our City. We work towards delivery against the themes (Figure 3) set out in our own Community Justice Outcome Improvement Plan 2018-23 and the national outcomes (Figure 4) set out in the National Strategy for Community Justice.

This edition of the Annual Report will focus on some of those personal stories and journeys (these are not atypical ) and the services that respond to meet their needs.  In our experience across the Community Justice Partnership, this is the reality for the majority of people who find themselves in the criminal justice system.

If we do not provide the opportunities to tackle the underlying drivers of offending behaviour, delivering on the Person-Centric Outcomes of the National Strategy then we are destined for more victims and declining communities.

We view this approach as proactive prevention and earlier intervention, in that it can avoid further offending and more costly reactive spent on the most expensive parts of our Justice System, such as Prison.

 

 

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