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Civitas casts doubt on the benefits of replacing prison sentences with community punishments

By Jonathan Isaby

CIVITAS Civitas has just published a paper by Professor Ken Pease, a former Home Office criminologist, which casts doubt on the idea which Ken Clarke is mooting about increasing the use of community punishments in place of short prison sentences. Prof Pease asserts that this will not necessarily  either reduce re-offending or save money.

In fact, according to his paper, Prison, Community Sentencing and Crime, 13,892 offences resulting in convictions could be prevented by keeping offenders on short sentences in prison for one extra month. He calculates that it would be cheaper to keep offenders in prison for longer periods than to opt for non-custodial sentences where they have the capacity to re-offend.

He also asserts:

"In short, community sentences as currently delivered have no evident effect on rates of reconviction."

And in his conclusion he states:

"It is important for any move away from the use of custody  to be based on something more than short-term political exigency. The debate about imprisonment costs and effects has been distorted by the received wisdom that prison is expensive, community sanctions are as effective as custody in protecting the public, and that dissent from these convenient fictions marks someone out as a penal sadist."

Click here to download the full paper or read a summary on the Civitas website.


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