Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Green Paper on Sentencing, Rehabilitation

The Ministry of Justice has issued a Green paper entitled "Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders."  The paper is open for public consultation which ends on 4th March 2011.  See:
Ministry of Justice News Release 7th December 2010

Links to the green paper and associated documents and The Green Paper

Whilst some aspects of the green paper have already been heralded, it is necessary to view the proposals as a whole package and to see them in the context of other changes including reform to legal aid, reduction in the numbers of Magistrates' courts etc.  The paper considers punishment and "payback", payment by results, sentencing reform to make it more understandable and to support rehabilitation and reparation, youth justice (where re-offending rates are high) and working with "communities" to reduce crime including the idea of "piloting" neighbourhood justice panels to deal with low-level offending.  Annex A to the paper shows an implementation plan.

Alternatives to imprisonment can be effective but they will not be unless they are adequately funded, manned by qualified and experienced personnel and backed by appropriately rigorous action in the event of breach.  The paper looks at introducing different "providers" into this area and they will be paid according to results achieved in the reduction of re-offending.

Politically speaking, the paper marks a departure from the "prison works" philosophy since imprisonment will come to be used as frequently especially for less serious offences.  Many penal reformers claim that short term prison sentences are generally ineffective in terms of rehabilitation though they may give a victim some temporary respite from the offender.  This is likely to prove to be one of the more controversial aspects of the proposals.

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