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Straw sets out plan for tougher sentencing

Jack Straw, the Secretary of State for Justice, is to unveil plans to merge the prison and probation services into a US-style "Department of Corrections" to try to get to grips with sentencing and the management of offenders in custody and in the community.

An "organisational review" of the Ministry of Justice is this week expected to signal a tougher approach to sentencing policy, requiring judges and magistrates to take prison overcrowding into account when deciding whether defendants should be handed custodial sentences or stricter community punishments.

Harry Fletcher, assistant general secretary of Napo, the probation officers' union, said: "It is extraordinary that probation is facing yet another reorganisation. The changes in 2001 were never evaluated, and now the National Offenders Managers Service is being abandoned."