Changes are needed to the way prison is used, Scotland’s justice secretary has said, as new figures show an increase in the proportion of offenders who committed further crimes after being freed from jail.
Overall, almost three out of 10 (28.3%) offenders who were sentenced in 2018-19 went on to commit a further crime within 12 months – up from 26.4% the previous year.
But, Scottish Government statistics show that 43.8% of those released from custody in the 2018-19 went on to reoffend – a 2.8 percentage point increase from the previous year’s total of 41%.
Meanwhile, those criminals given short prison sentences had a higher number of reconvictions than those who were sentenced to longer periods behind bars.
The report said: “Offenders given shorter sentences commit relatively less serious crimes, and tend to commit more of these crimes than those committing more serious crimes.”
In addition to this those who have served shorter sentences “do not have the opportunity to engage in rehabilitative work whilst in custody, therefore, they are reconvicted more often”.
As a result, the figures showed that in 2018-19 the average number of reconvictions per offender for those given a custodial sentence of three months or less was 1.22 – compared to 0.09 for those who had been given a sentence of four years or more.
While the reconviction rate for those who had been in jail increased, the figures showed no change in this for offenders given a Community Payback Order.
The reconviction rate for such sentences was 29.2% in 2018-19, the same in as in 2017-18.
The reconviction rate was highest amongst those who had committed a crime of dishonesty – with 45.6% of this group going on to reoffend.
Meanwhile, those who were guilty of sex crimes had the lowest reconviction rate, at 10.4%
Almost one in five (17.7%) of those convicted of domestic abuse in 2018-19 went on to offend again, with 6.9% committing more domestic abuse.
And while the overall reconviction rate has increased, the number of offenders going on to commit subsequent crimes is lower than it was a decade ago.
The report noted: “Over the 10 years between 2009-10 and 2018-19, the reconviction rate has fallen by 2.3 percentage points from 30.6% to 28.3%, and the average number of reconvictions per offender has decreased by 11% from 0.56 to 0.50.”
Justice secretary Keith Brown commented: “Our firm focus on prevention, effective community interventions and rehabilitation is working, with reconviction rates at one of the lowest levels recorded.”
But he also stated: “Our Programme for Government is clear we should be working to change the way that imprisonment is used, while expanding community justice services which support community sentences and other interventions that deliver real improvements.
“We have strengthened our financial commitment to community interventions, with the Scottish Budget for 2020-21 increasing investment in community justice services to more than £117m, an increase of over £6.5m compared to the previous financial year.
“Community sentencing makes individuals pay back to the community while addressing the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. And they work.
“These figures show those given short custodial sentences of one year or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those given Community Payback Orders.”
Brown said that the Scottish Government was “fully committed to taking forward a range of actions focused on reducing offending including improving rehabilitation for those in custody and providing support to better help them reintegrate back into a Scotland safer and fairer for all”.