Writing for the Guardian's Comment is free section, Nacro’s chief executive Paul McDowell responded to a new report published by the think tank Civitas claiming that increasing the length of prison sentences for burglary and fraud reduces offending. In it he argues that the report fails to offer a considered way forward to reduce crime and reoffending:
‘This simple analysis hides a much more complicated problem. According to the Civitas research increasing the average sentence for burglary by one month would reduce offending by about 0.5%. In our experience at Nacro, all that prison does in these cases is to delay the next offence from taking place. A slightly longer sentence just means a slightly longer delay in reoffending. We already know from other research that short-term prison sentences don't reduce reoffending, particularly for serious repeat offenders. We also know that the length of custodial sentences has been increasing significantly over the past decade with no causal link to a reduction in reoffending. It concerns me that the findings from this research are being used by some to advocate longer sentences in order to reduce crime. If we want to cut crime, we must get to the root of offending behaviour and stop people reoffending.
‘Community sentences are proven to be 8% more effective than short-term prison sentences at reducing reoffending, but they can also challenge criminal behaviour; they are better at dealing with drug and alcohol problems; they require people to repair the damage caused by their crimes; and they cost significantly less. Prison is important, but it should be reserved for those who commit the most serious crimes and for those who present a danger to society. We must look to other European countries, such as the Netherlands, that have managed to reduce their crime rate and their prison population simultaneously. People who commit crime should be punished, but we must use prison for the right reasons. If we do not, we will fail to make the lasting impact on crime and reoffending rates that the public deserve.’
The guardian article can be found here.
A copy of the full report can be found here.