Last week’s NAO report highly critical of short term prison sentences
The National Audit Office report “Managing offenders on short custodial sentences” quite clearly demonstrates the urgent need to consider the cost benefit and effectiveness of locking up offenders for short sentences. As the evidence mounts against short-term prison sentences the next prospective government should not shy away from addressing the issue and looking at more productive ways of dealing with low-level offenders. The harsh truth is that even the most effective rehabilitation given to those on short sentences really cannot work. It is inconceivable to expect these offenders – who are often repeat offenders with chaotic lifestyles and multiple needs – to turn their lives around in just a matter of weeks or a few months in prison only to be released back into the community. They would be released back to the same chaotic community from whence they came where there is very little or absolutely no post release service. Without properly funded programmes in the community to deal with the wide range of issues which compound continued offending behaviour, we can only expect this problem to continue to get worse.
Policy makers have to grasp the economic reality – short-term prison sentences cost the state millions, if not billions, and are utterly ineffective. If any other public service was so profligate while being so inefficient there would be a national outcry. It is now time for politicians to stand up to corrosive media headlines which only serve to derail their ability to develop sensible policies which genuinely can do justice to victims and the public.