Monday, 14 June 2010

Short term prison sentences in the news again !

It is reported that the Secretary of State for Justice is now coming out against the use of short term prison sentences - see Daily Mail 14th June 2010.  He argues that such sentences are ineffective in reforming offenders.  In many cases he is right BUT that does not mean that alternative "community sentences" are always effective either though they may be somewhat cheaper.  Most people with knowledge of the Magistrates' Courts will know that there are repeat offenders whose "antecedents" show numerous different types of sentence having been tried but the offending continues.  There is also the question of what courts should do with those who breach either suspended sentences of imprisonment (which often have requirements such as "unpaid work" attached) or community sentences.  A further point is that, if jail is not to be used, there would have to be an expansion of resources relating to community sentences - e.g. it is necessary to have trained people to run or supervise most forms of community sentence and those resources are already thin on the ground.  This is a big question and simple abolition of short prison sentences is too simplistic an answer.

Picture: Lord Phillips, then Lord Chief Justice, attended an unpaid work session - see here.

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