Cutting short jail sentences ‘will not reduce crime’

BBC News 28 August 2010
Government plans to lock up fewer criminals would not reduce offending or cut costs, a report says. Ex-Home Office criminologist Professor Ken Pease said community sentences have no evident effect on reconviction rates in their current form. His report, Prison, Community Sentencing and Crime, has been released by the think-tank Civitas. It follows Justice Secretary Ken Clarke’s call for alternatives to jail to be developed.

Prof Pease said it was important for any move away from the use of custody “to be based on something more than short-term political exigency”. He said using community sentences to replace short prison sentences simply “freed the group most likely to reoffend to do so sooner, with no evidence of a current treatment benefit from community sanctions to offset that.” Prof Pease said arguments for fewer short sentences failed to take into account that jailing persistent offenders gave the public a respite from crime.

* Existing community sentences, compared with prison sentences, have no apparent impact on re-offending rates. (p. 7)
* Offenders are prevented from committing crimes against the general public while in prison. (p. 4)
* The number of crimes committed by offenders is much larger than the number for which they are eventually convicted; for example one estimate suggested as many as 136 burglaries per conviction for burglary. (p. 9)
* The substantial economic costs associated with each offence that have to be borne by individuals, businesses and public services. For example, a single theft (on average) is estimated to cost £1,000, a serious wounding £21,000. (p. 9)