A Review of Short Term Prison Sentences
The Ministry of Justice is considering the removal of short term prison sentences – namely those of less than six months – in England and Wales. Exceptions to this would be if the sentence was for violent crime or a sexual offence.
The proposals stem from the argument that short prison terms are less effective at rehabilitation than community penalties, the latter producing lower re-offending rates.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart told the Daily Telegraph that such sentences were ‘long enough to damage you but not long enough to heal you.’
Arguing for the need for reform, Mr Stewart said: ‘The public are safer if we have a good community sentence…and it will relieve a lot of pressure on prisons.’
More than half of the 86,275 offenders sentenced last year were given sentences of less than 6 months according to a Parliamentary response to Mr Stewart last month. Approximately two-thirds of those prisoners released after serving a sentence of less than 12 months reoffend within a year. It is argued that this is because short sentences provide little opportunity to rehabilitate an offender and instead focus on a brief punishment.
The result of the proposal would be that some 30,000 persons convicted of a criminal offence could be spared prison each year.
Zoe Spencer is a trainee solicitor based in our High Wycombe Department.