As a serving police constable perhaps I could enlighten your readers. It is very simple. Continual pressure from many quarters to give offenders any form of punishment other than custody, that is, formal warnings, official cautions and suspended sentences, means that fewer go to prison. For 'one-off offences', this is fair and sensible. However, the recidivists see this as a licence to continue in crime and relish mocking a system that can't deal with them.
Custody may not reform people but it does interfere with their criminal activities.
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