Study launches into alternatives to jail

all credits: Newstart Magazine
published: 21st June 2010

The Howard League and the Prison Governors’ Association have launched a joint project to find ways to reduce the need for short jail terms, as new research shows the damage created under the current sentencing policy.

The probation officers’ union Napo today stepped up its calls for reform as its research found that three-quarters of prisoners serving terms of less than 12 months were reconvicted within two years. It wants short prison sentences to be scrapped and for the money saved to be spent on the supervision of short-term prisoners in the community.

Napo says that 55,000 people currently receive custodial sentences of six months or less at an estimated cost of £45,000 each. Those given short-term sentences receive no rehabilitation and are highly likely to re-offend.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, said that community supervision would not only be cheaper but reconviction rates would be much lower, at 34%. ‘Out of the 170 cases submitted to Napo in the spring, two-thirds had two previous convictions or less, which suggests there is ample scope for exploring alternatives to jail,’ he said.

The Howard League for Penal Reform backed the call and announced its joint research project aimed at identifying ways in which the current system can be changed. Focusing on adult men serving sentences of up to 12 months in prisons in England and Wales, the study is expected to be completed by November this year.

Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: ‘Short custodial sentence are a costly and wasteful response to complex human problems that need solving. Short sentences create more crime; they don’t create solutions or safety.’ A New Start investigation last year revealed the gap in support for short-term offenders and proved the benefits of intensive investment.