Can community sentences cut prisoner numbers?

Monday, 2 November 2015

Catherine Heard, Policy and Research Associate at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, writing for the Probation Quarterly asks why the increased use of community sentences did not lead to a corresponding fall in prisoner numbers:

Increasing the use of community sanctions and making them more punitive cannot avert the risks and harms of our over-reliance on prison. It simply widens the net of punishment, consuming resources that would be better spent promoting and funding other ways of diverting people from criminal justice towards the support they need. Our long-standing over-reliance on criminal justice interventions leaves little space to develop fairer, more effective solutions.

The article refers to the recently published report Community Sentences since 2000It outlines the key policy developments since 2000 in our prison population and use of alternatives, in all three UK jurisdictions covering;

  • The increasing role of the private sector
  • The growth of electronic monitoring
  • The growing punitiveness of community sentences
  • The confused and conflicting policy messages around ‘punishment’ and ‘rehabilitation’.

The report presents a set of suggested core principles for the better use of alternatives to custody, to inform and underpin the policy and approach of governments and criminal justice agencies.