What do victims think about Community Sentences – Roma Hooper in Inside Time

 In Press

My experience of working at Feltham Young Offenders and establishing the UK’s first prison radio station – I am convinced that far too many young people were ending up in Feltham with short sentences and then leaving prison with absolutely no support on the outside. To me that felt like the system was failing both offenders and victims alike.

So Make Justice Work is a campaign to boost public support for a radical change in how Britain deals with lower level offenders a switch from expensive short prison sentences to intensive and effective sentences delivered in the community. It aims to raise awareness of the ineffectiveness and huge expense of locking up low-level offenders. We know there are many challenges with regard to public perception and confidence around community sentencing, so a great deal of our work is about getting the message out there that robust community sentences are, for many, harder than a short prison sentence. We also emphasise that community sentences are more effective at addressing some of those issues which land people in prison in the first place, such as mental health and substance misuse problems.

We have recently undertaken a joint piece of research with the charity Victim Support and our report, “Out in the Open” about the views of victims on community sentences. The report shows that most victims support their use instead of prison for those who commit lower level offences and could end up with a short custodial sentence, but need to know more to have confidence in their effectiveness.

As part of this research, we commissioned a nationwide opinion poll which revealed that when provided with a short explanation of
what community sentences involve, 70% of victims of crime support them as an alternative to prison for lower level offences. But the
research reveals a lack of understanding and a need for much greater awareness of community sentences. The survey also found that victims of crime have serious misgivings about the delivery of community sentences in practice, which partly reflects a deeper lack of confidence in the criminal justice system as a whole.

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