Commissioning for Better Justice

This blog comes from Tom Jackson, Chief Officer, Glasgow Community Justice Authority.

We know what works to reduce re-offending and to make communities safer, but when you look at how the public purse is spent in relation to justice, there is little evidence that our spend reflects this knowledge.  Re-offending costs an estimated £3 billion pounds a year in Scotland[1] and reoffending also costs our communities, victims of crimes, families of those convicted and those caught in cycles of reoffending.  Analysis of spend suggests that while we spend £254 million in restricting liberty, and a further £67m supporting the reintegration to communities from custody, we only spend £61m (16% of criminal justice spend) on rehabilitation.[2]


For women, following a custodial sentence we saw 42% reconvicted within 12 months, but for those completing a Community Payback Order, the figure is under 27%. [3]  What is required is a shift in our use of justice tools, and that is most effectively achieved through a shift in our justice spend – a justice reinvestment from custody towards community, to ensure our community response to offending and to those convicted is as robust as our custodial response.

The Scottish Government did just that.  Following the report from the Commission on Women Offenders (2012), the Government provided time-limited investment (£3m) for new community based justice services for women, seeing the initiation of 16 projects across Scotland, including a number of new Women’s Justice Centres, such as Tomorrow’s Women Glasgow.  In 2015, they announced a top-slice of £1.5m from the Scottish Prison Service budget, to be distributed via Community Justice Authorities to focus on reducing our over-reliance on custody for women.  A number of interesting areas of work were launched, and the Government continued this investment in 2016/17 announcing an intention to sustain the reinvestment.

While such investment can have an impact, £1.5m top sliced from an SPS budget of £396m (2015/16 Scottish Budget) is arguably a marginal shift, and spread across the country will have marginal impact.  A further national investment of £4m to support Community Sentencing was announced in September 2016 (not gender specific).  These investments continue to point in the right direction, and perhaps give hope for further scale as success is demonstrated.

It is however also to the local arena we need to look for leadership.  Within the estimated £3b cost of reoffending (data does not currently provide a gender specific costing), it is a range of public agencies which bear the cost, including local authorities, NHS, Police, Courts, Procurator Fiscal and the SPS.  Therefore it is through local leadership, within the new Community Justice arrangements, where progress towards savings might be made.  That leadership must be reflected through clear, long-term, robust commissioning strategies.

As we look across Community Justice partners, we see few examples of justice oriented commissioning planning, and fewer still which embrace the breadth of “commissioning”, from Needs Assessment to Procurement to Monitoring and onward in a cycle.  Fewer still which provide a focus extending 10 or more years, the period over which any meaningful justice reinvestment would need to occur.  And, virtually no examples of Joint or Collaborative Commissioning Planning.

The opportunities to focus on the positive impact a shift in resource planning can achieve, for individuals and for reoffending levels, can be played out centred on women.  The progress of existing investments, and the relatively small numbers of women within the totality of justice services, should allow more creative and collaborative responses.  As the new Community Justice partnerships develop their plans, and emerge to take on the leadership mantle, it is for all of us to support efforts to tackle the entrenched reactive spend on justice, and move to a preventative model.

Tom Jackson, Chief Officer, Glasgow Community Justice Authority

[1] Based on 2011 data from the Social and Economic Costs of Crime, as referenced in Audit Scotland Reducing Reoffending in Scotland – Impact Report, 2014.

[2] Based on 2010/11 budgets, as referenced in Audit Scotland, Reducing Reoffending in Scotland, 2012

[3] Scottish Government –