Offenders paying back Borders communities
Fallen gravestones being repaired at Hawick Cemetery.
Community projects in the Borders which are helping offenders turn their backs on crime were today visited by Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill.
Mr MacAskill visited Selkirk Football Club and Hawick Cemetery to see improvements carried out through hard work by offenders on community payback orders.
At Selkirk Football Club’s Yarrow Park, offenders have carried out a range of improvements, including building stands, installing decking for players and officials and putting up fences.
At Hawick Cemetery, fallen headstones are being repaired and returned to their original upright positions in a major clean-up operation by offenders who are being sent out to repay their debt to the community.
Paying tribute to the projects, Mr MacAskill said:
"Cemeteries should be a place of quiet reflection, a place to pay your respects and to remember loved ones lost.
"Unfortunately, the scene at many cemeteries in the Borders and more widely across Scotland is one of fallen and broken headstones. That is unacceptable, it's a bugbear of many communities up and down the country, and this project will see action being taken to rectify it.
"The council and church workers do their best, but finding the resources and labour required to carry out these repairs is often a real struggle for many.
"We want to get these offenders out doing some hard work, carrying out tough manual labour to repay their dues to the community they've harmed, while delivering improvements from which the community will benefit. This is exactly the kind of initiative we want to see more of.
“Through current legislation, communities can have a say on the type of work they want to see offenders doing, from cleaning up graffiti to helping renovate dilapidated buildings so we’d urge people to get in touch with their local council to make suggestions.
“The work being done at Selkirk Football Club is an excellent example of this. Previously, the under-19’s team was disbanded because the pitches didn’t satisfy SFA regulations. However offenders on community payback orders were brought it to build fences and put in place infrastructure to change this, and now East of Scotland matches can once again be played at the club.
“Three out of five offenders given tough community-based sentences do not reoffend.
“Projects like these ones are undoubtedly ones that work - they provide the chance for low-level offenders to repay communities for the damage they have done and to learn new skills to help them get back into work.”
Figures show that a total of 1.75 million hours of unpaid work was imposed on offenders by Scottish Courts in 2011-12. Only 24 per cent of offenders who serve a short prison sentence do not re-offend within the next two years, compared with 58 per cent of offenders given a community sentence.