Scotland

Age limit removed from scheme to support offenders

New Routes mentor and mentee Image copyright Wise Group
Image caption Malcolm - on the right - has been supported by the New Routes scheme

A scheme offering inmates extra support when leaving jail is to be expanded.

The prison service's Throughcare initiative was suspended in July. Now the New Routes scheme, led by social enterprise the Wise Group, will be available to more men leaving prison.

It will now be available to men serving a short-term prison sentence of all ages, where previously it had an upper age limit of 25.

The mentoring programme is the largest in Scotland.

The Wise Group and its partners have provided advocacy and wraparound support for up to a year to nearly 4,000 men over the last six years.

Image caption Malcolm was released from prison in the summer

BBC Scotland spoke to Malcolm in July. He was using the Wise Group's service, after being released from prison a second time. He was sofa surfing and hoping to return to work.

"If you get out with nothing to get out to, a lot of people just fall between the cracks without having somebody to... [give] them a bit of encouragement", he said.

"It's very easy to start re-offending when you get out and you've got no one to turn to and no one to give you a bit of guidance.

"If you can't get out and help yourself find a job it's easy to go back to doing what you were doing before and that's what initially put you in prison."

Sean Duffy, of the Wise Group, said: "New Routes has already had national success, proving to reduce reoffending among 18 to 25-year-old males. Just 9.7% of young men on New Routes return to prison within a year of completing their mentoring journey, compared to a national reoffending rate of 34%.

"As the Scottish justice system faces a significant national challenge, we know that expanding our proven, evidence-led mentoring service will support the Scottish government's smart justice agenda and a move towards more out and fewer in prison."

Image caption Humza Yousaf said Scotland was at a 20-year low in reconviction rates

Justice Secretary Humza Yousaf said: "Scotland's firm focus on prevention and rehabilitation has contributed to a 20-year low in reconviction rates, helping to keep crime down and communities safe.

"Helping people to reintegrate into their communities - including providing practical help with everything from job applications to finding accommodation - is key to ensuring they do not get drawn back into a damaging cycle of offending.

"Following the Scottish Prison Service's decision to suspend its Throughcare services we worked closely with third-sector partners to find an alternative. I'm pleased that the New Routes partnership has been able to respond and this valuable support will remain available to prisoners who wish to access it."

The SPS said previously that the decision to suspend Throughcare was taken given the "increasingly complex needs of those in our care", which had left "capacity and capability... stretched".

A spokeswoman said the staff who had been seconded to the initiative were needed to return to their roles within prisons, but said the suspension would be reviewed.

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