Crime study casts doubt on prison as deterrent - Crime - UK - The Independent

Crime study casts doubt on prison as deterrent

Prison does not work, according to official figures to be released this week showing criminals are much more likely to commit further offences if they are sent to jail.

New Home Office research – which flies in the face of the Government's crime-fighting strategy – shows that community-based sentences, such as graffiti cleaning, litter collecting, graveyard repairs and anger management courses, cut reoffending more effectively.

Figures to be released to Parliament by the Home Office minister Hilary Benn will show that 44 per cent of criminals who are given community penalties are reconvicted within two years, compared with 56 per cent of those sent to jail.

News of the findings led last night to calls for thousands of prisoners to be released from jails on electronic tags and transferred to more effective punishments.

The research comes as the Government prepares the prison system to accept tens of thousands more offenders. The jail population is expected to rise from 72,000 to 110,000 in 2009. But the increased use of prison will increase levels of crime in the long term and waste millions of pounds of public funds, claim the research authors.

In a written parliamentary answer to Simon Hughes, the Liberal Democrats' home affairs spokesman, Mr Benn said the Home Office had re-evaluated community punishments. New "adjusted" figures show a wide gulf has emerged between the reconviction rates of those completing jail sentences in 1999 (55.7 per cent) and those given non-custodial punishments (44.3 per cent).

Previous research had shown there was little difference in the effectiveness of the two approaches.

Information provided by the Home Office to the House of Commons in 2000 stated that between 1987-1996 there was never more than 3 per cent difference in the reconviction rates for the two approaches and that, at times, prison had been judged to be more effective in tackling recidivism. It stated categorically: "There is little difference between the reconviction rate for custody and all community penalties."

Mr Hughes urged the Government to reconsider its position in the light of the latest research. "These figures put clear blue water between the custody and community options," he said.

"This should be the signal for a major shift of funding from prisons to probation. There are thousands of prisoners who could be out on a tag, under supervision, paying back to the communities they took from."

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of the probation union Napo, said the Government had failed properly to resource frontline probation staff. He said: "It flies in the face of economic sense. Probation is one-tenth of the cost of prison and we now know it is more effective in reducing offending."

Deborah Clothier, chief executive of the Restorative Justice Consortium, said the Government needed to provide more information about the benefits of community penalties so that they would be more popular with sentencers. "People generally don't know about them," she said.

The Home Secretary, David Blunkett, and the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Woolf, have both spoken recently of the need to reduce the prison population. But penal reformers claim judges and magistrates have been afraid to use non-custodial sentences.

Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape
music
Voices
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'I felt like that was the lowest I’d ever felt'
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
News
A plane flies close to the eruption of the Icelandic volcano
newsAnd yes, it's quite something
Sport
Tito Vilanova passed away aged just 45
footballThe club's former manager died in April, less than a year after he stood down
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch
artAnd it's even for a good cause
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig is believed to be donning skies as 007 for the first time
Life and Style
techCriminals are targeting an e-reader security flaw
Life and Style
tech... and together they're worth at least £100 million
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)
filmMatt Damon in talks to return
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Arts and Entertainment
Fringe show: 'Cilla', with Sheridan Smith in the title role and Aneurin Barnard as her future husband Bobby Willis
tvEllen E Jones on ITV's 'Cilla'
News
newsBut just how much does a 122-carat coloured diamond go for these days?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week