Monday 31 August 2009

Reconviction rates

I use Google Reader to manage news and blog feeds, and noticed today a lot of news on re-offending figures from the 2005-2007 cohort of offenders. Kenny MacAskill is quite clear that short term sentences are ineffective, and I would tend to agree.

The figures show that of those who have served a sentence of six months or less, 70% are likely to be re-convicted of another crime within two years. Somewhat shockingly, this cycle applies disproportionately young people.

Labour and the Tories are very keen on locking people up, but it seems to me that six months will achieve very little by way of rehabilitation. I have heard that many schemes in prison to help give offenders a better chance in life are oversubscribed, and by the time comes for release, the offender will not have had a chance to access them. It's expensive to keep people locked up for six months, and gives little meaningful benefit to the community.

Locking people up for six months gives communities a bit of respite, but as my constituents have told me, when
someone comes back after serving a short 3-6 month sentence it's like a slap in the face. They will come back to the same place and often start to wreak havoc all over again. If there is no change in behaviour or attitude, what has been achieved?

Judges must have the right to decide on appropriate sentences, but they should really take the community impact into account as well. The police tell me that they often recommend longer sentences for offenders, because they know the impact short sentences have on communities.

Interestingly, For those sentenced to a Community Service Order, the reconviction rate fell from 47 per cent for the 1996-97 cohort to 42 per cent for the 2005-06 cohort. I don't believe that this is appropriate for every offender, but at least this means that there can be some benefit, and a sense of 'working off' the sentence.
This should be balanced of course with public safety concerns and be closely supervised. If it allows for a better route back into employment or training, picking up some practical skills on the way and getting into a routine, than this surely must be more effective.

It's clear that prison has become a revolving door for many offenders, and that does society no justice at all.

No comments: