SHOULD offenders be ‘punished' or ‘rehabilitated'? With six out of 10 offenders
reconvicted of a crime within two years of leaving prison I believe we have to do both.
As Justice Minister in Scotland, I am very clear that those who commit serious crimes should do serious time in prison.
But I also recognise in many instances prison isn't effective – offenders who spend only a few weeks or months in jail are released without having to face up to the consequences of their crime or change their behaviour.
Victims of crime deserve a system where the pain they have suffered is recognised by the offender, who is then made to give something back by repairing the damage done.
Whether it's a window that has been broken, a car stolen or a body assaulted, victims deserve a justice service where they know that offender will be caught, dealt with fairly but swiftly and made to face up to the human consequences of their actions.
I published our Criminal Justice Plan late last year, setting out radical steps to break the cycle of reoffending.
Our new proposals will lead to a much more coherent and systematic approach to managing offenders, as well as speeding up our court system. And we are now beginning to see the benefits of new legislation on anti social behaviour, with communities being prepared to stand up and be counted.
As Scotland's Justice Minister I am also currently taking a piece of legislation through the Parliamentary process which will further tighten up the law and protect young people from those that seek to do them harm.
The Protection of Children and Prevention of Sexual Offences Bill will shortly come before the Scottish Parliament in the final stage of the legislative process before it becomes an Act.
This Bill will introduce a specific criminal offence of ‘grooming' for those predatory adults who try to make contact with children either over the internet or otherwise with the intention of causing them harm.
• Cathy Jamieson is the Justice Minister in the Scottish Parliament and Labour/Co-op MSP for Carrick, Cumnock and Doon Valley.