Watch: Offenders restore city graves in Edinburgh

Sheriffs can dish out up to 300 hours of unpaid work instead of jail time. Picture: contributed
Sheriffs can dish out up to 300 hours of unpaid work instead of jail time. Picture: contributed
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Hours clocked cleaning graffiti, redecorating day centres or gritting pathways are hours not spent behind bars for offenders serving time in the community instead of in prison.

And for cash-strapped communities, the benefits of unpaid work are innumerable.

Sheriffs can dish out up to 300 hours of unpaid work instead of jail time, a scheme which Community Justice Scotland says allows people to settle their debt to society as well as build better lives for themselves and their families and communities.

And a new campaign – Second Chancers – aims to increase awareness of these benefits to the community – two thirds of which don’t know what community justice is.

A series of short films reveal an insight into the alternative to prison giving powerful first person testimonies to help change perceptions the rehabilitation of offenders.

And one new video shows unpaid workers restoring 
fallen headstones in graveyards across the city.

Filmed at Duddingston Kirk a group were developing a staircase pathway as part of a memorial garden.

And in the Grange Cemetery one offender explained that it was the first time on a community payback order.

“I’ve been in prison before but it’s the first time I’ve done community service.

“I was actually impressed by the work we were doing. I thought we were just going to be going about picking up litter.

“But we’re actually doing something that makes a difference.”

During his hours he said he’d put up a “fair few” stones.

“I can drive past Liberton graveyard with my head up, thinking of all those people’s names in the mud – not anymore.”

Another worker added: “You’re putting something back into the community and learning something at the same time. I’m not sure how to put it, but I’m taking pride in my work.”

Recent figures show that more than half the people released from a custodial sentence of six months or less are reconvicted within a year while 39 per cent return to prison within a year.

Chief executive of Community
Justice Scotland Karyn McCluskey, said: “Scotland has always been a country of inventors, explorers and innovators. In the fields of science, engineering and technology, we strive for what works rather than what has always been done. Why would we approach justice any differently?

“We deserve a smart justice system driven by the best evidence of what reduces 
offending, repairs harm and improves the lives of everyone. Isn’t that what justice is for?

“Our campaign ‘Second Chancers’ aims to increase awareness of community justice and grow public support for a smart justice system that is evidence-based, innovative and focused on solving people’s problems in the most effective way.”