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There are few more impressive members of the Government than Roderick James Nugent ‘Rory’ Stewart OBE, FRSL, FRSGS. As the initials after his name suggest, he has in his 46 years racked up notable achievements outside politics in the fields of diplomacy, charity and literature.
So it is as one of his admirers that I urge Stewart to think more deeply before embarking on his proposal that jail sentences of less than six months should be scrapped, and replaced with so-called ‘community sentences’.
Prisons - Minister - Sentences - Months
The Prisons Minister has argued that custodial sentences of less than six months are ‘long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you’.
It is clear from this that he regards prison not primarily as a punishment, but as a form of therapy.
Concerns - Public - Criminals - Ruination - Trauma
That is all very well, but it fails to address the concerns of the public, who do, actually, wish to see persistent criminals made to pay for the ruination and trauma they bring to the lives of their fellow citizens.
It is because judges are increasingly aware of how inadequate is the supervision overseen by the Community Rehabilitation Companies that they might be more inclined to set a custodial sentence.
Lesson - Governments
This is a lesson which governments seem never to learn.
An earlier administration advanced an alternative to custody for persistent young offenders, known as the Intensive Supervision and Surveillance Programme. But in 2009 a report declared the programme was ‘failing either to protect the public or rehabilitate the youngsters . . . more than 90 per cent committed further crimes after their period of supervision had ended’. That is far higher than the rate of reoffending by those who have served short prison sentences.
Stewart - Sentence - Recidivism - Rate - Cent
Stewart is right that the shorter the sentence, the higher the recidivism: there is a reoffending rate of 60 per cent among those who serve...
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