by Dawn Exley, National Development Officer

On Thursday 27th August, we attended the launch of the Street Cones ‘Something to Lose’.  Commissioned by Community Justice Glasgow, the film follows the fictional journey of a young man on a Community Payback Order ‘CPO’ and the impact it has on his life (as an alternative to a short term prison sentence).  The film also interviews both Justice Professionals and individuals issued with CPOs. The lead actor, James Grieg brought his lived experience to the role as he had previously spent time on a CPO and although the role is fictional, he says the story had much in common with his own journey.

Humza Yousaf MSP, Cabinet Secretary for Justice speaks in the film about Scotland’s commitment to investment in alternatives to custody given we have the highest incarceration numbers in Western Europe.  That we must do more to extend the dialogue around community sentences and our dependence on custody and how, in many cases, we know custody is not the answer and therefore must ‘evangelise about this message’.

Following the film there was an inspiring conversation with John O’Neil from Boden Street, James Grieg (lead actor) and Adam Robertson from Street Cones hosted by Tom Jackson from Community Justice Glasgow.

Adam Robertson from Street Cones talked about the work their organisation does and the role they have played in preparing those in custody for Covid-19 once released.  He also discussed how they are looking at ways to help reduce the backlog of CPO hours by undertaking their ‘Road to Change’ workshops which use drama workshops to help participants explore why they offend.  Street Cones also provide vocational courses to those leaving custody and work with young people too, but are very keen to increase their ability and capacity to do more preventative work.

We heard more in general about CPO’s and how they are now instilling a ‘wrap around service’ that ‘puts the person in control’ and how a CPO is not just a punishment, but an opportunity in many ways with support and help available ‘at every turn’, including drug and alcohol rehabilitation (as seen in the film).  James Grieg’s talked of his own experiences on a CPO an the crucial influence it had on his life.

A final question and answer session left the audience reflecting on some thought-provoking issues such as –

– is Scotland’s over-use of prison contributing to re-offending rates?

– If other countries, such as Norway, can have (approx.) only 7 young people currently in custody, what can we do differently?

– Are we ‘setting young people up to fail’ by focussing on productivity rather than wellbeing?

All in all, a very worthwhile look in depth look at how community justice can not just help support people in a holistic and often life-changing way, but also how crucial alternatives to custody are for Scotland and our overall aspirations as a country.  Street Cones ask we all do our bit to share this film and message as far as we can.