Extra £3.4m funding for prisoner rehabilitation
Mentoring schemes which help prisoners avoid reoffending have been given a cash boost by the Scottish government.
Four programmes which help offenders cope with life outside of prison so they are less likely to commit further crimes will share £3.4m.
The mentors provide one-to-one support and guidance to prison leavers.
The announcement comes as Scottish ministers prepare to present plans to Holyrood to end jail terms of a year or less for most offenders.
Sean Duffy, chief executive of The Wise Group, which oversees the running of a mentoring programme for 18 to 25-year-old-men who have served jail sentences of up to four years, said: "Our dedicated mentors, half of whom have convictions themselves, provide vital wraparound support and guidance to customers for up to six months before release - being there for them on the day they leave prison - and for a further six months in the community.
"This funding will allow our proven mentoring approach to positively impact more lives and further reduce reoffending.
"We will also be able explore new ways to support the justice system in providing a viable alternative to custody, such as embedding mentoring in community sentencing options."
'Cycles of reoffending'
Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Scotland's firm focus on prevention and rehabilitation to avoid people being drawn into cycles of reoffending has contributed to a 19-year low in reconviction rates - helping to keep crime down and communities safe.
"We know that practical and personal problems faced by people leaving prison make it harder to reintegrate and can lead to reoffending.
"However, when I speak to people who have benefited from mentoring of this kind they are very clear that many of these issues are preventable.
"Being imprisoned can often exacerbate issues which underlie offending behaviour - so mentoring support starts while people are still in custody and continues when they return to their community and family.
"Whether it is finding somewhere permanent to stay or dealing with money worries, mentors help to ensure that problems are recognised and dealt with so they don't lead to bigger issues."