It's not often one gets through a media debate on prisons without hearing a particular trope: "Prison should be reserved for serious, repeat offenders."
Well, maybe, but as Nick Herbert notes, "Those who say that prison should be reserved for serious or serial offenders tend to ignore the fact that it already is." In my report today, I investigate the degree to which, far from there there being more prisoners than there are serious, repeat offenders, there are far more serious, repeat offenders than prison cells.
Two figures do much to highlight the grim reality. They are taken from the share of offenders guilty of 'more serious' indictable offences such as violence against the person, sexual offences, robberty and theft.
- In 2011/12, 68,100 received a penalty other than prison for a serious offence despite 15 or more previous convictions or cautions. As a total of 108,119 serious offenders had 15 or more previous convictions/cautions, this means 63% of them avoided prison.
- The same year, the number of serious offenders who avoided prison despite more than 10 previous convictions/cautions was 91,032. This means 65% of them avoided prison - and is a figure higher than the total prison population of 83,825.
I could go on, and the report does, but these figures alone should do much to refute the idea that there are too many people in prison.