Talking Community Justice – Halloween Edition

Lauren and AlanGuess which one is the Chief Social Work Adviser. On second thoughts………. !  pumpkinHaving recently returned from Universal Studios and the fantastic and magical experience of Harry Potter, the Shrunken Head, Hogwarths Express, Gringotts Bank and Quidditch you can see why I might be in Halloween mode.

So what is the link between Halloween and the Social Work Scotland Criminal Justice conference last week?  Well spirits for a start! More than 200 delegates attended the conference on `Lives Changed` sws conference3During my presentation, I was highlighting just how much synergy there now is between Ministers and the wider sector about the direction of travel in respect of the Criminal Justice Bill. In particular the responsibility on a wider set of players to reduce offending in Scotland. This was not always the case when, as Convenor of the ADSW Standing Committee on Criminal Justice ten years ago, there were some tricky discussions on the future of criminal justice services.  I recall that the first class working relationships with Scottish Government at that time helped us find compromise in the form of Community Justice Authorities – an arrangement which brought partners together in a way that had not previously been part of the landscape.  It is however time to move on and the increased responsibility of community planning partnerships can be a powerful tool to change the lives of many people who have experience of the justice system.

There were several highlights at the conference including a superb presentation by Chris Moore, Chief Executive of Clink, a catering training programme in 5 English and Welsh prisons where 5 star restaurants are now open to the public. They have not only been receiving rave reviews on Trip Adviser and winning awards, but more importantly reducing offending.  Reoffending rates sit at 12.5% with 800 individuals retrained since 2009.  Much of the fruit and vegetables used in the restaurants are grown in the prisons, with seating and tables also designed and built in the prisons. Real connections between prison and communities are being established with improved employment opportunities following.

Highlight of the conference was the role of those who have been part of the criminal justice system and have turned their lives around – getting the right support at the right time. Scotland now need to embrace the experience of those whose lives have changed in helping support and mentor others in a more consistent programme of change in Scotland – building community capacity and resilience. That is community justice in action!

Arun GandhiIt was certainly treat and not trick when I had the privilege of attending the annual SACRO lecture in Parliament Hall. This year given by Arun Gandhi, fifth grandson of Mahatma Gandhi. Arun spent two years living with his grandfather in what turned out to be the last two years of his life.  Two years in which Arun learned much of his grandfather`s philosophy.  Now in his 80`s Arun continues to speak extensively across the world that justice should not be about punishment but about transformation. His timely presentation felt in tune with the discussions at the Social Work Scotland conference and for the first time in many years I really belief that Scotland is now ready to embrace the kind of changes that will deliver less individuals in prison and that finally responsibility for reducing reoffending will focus on community.