Letter: Probation reduces reoffending rates

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Sir: Peter Coad (letter, 20 January) muddles two sets of statistics. Home Office statistics for 1993 showed that 88 per cent of probation orders and 84 per cent of community service (CS) orders were completed in full and were not terminated early because of a subsequent criminal conviction while the order was in force. Only 9 per cent of probation orders and 6 per cent of CS orders were terminated by reason of further offending behaviour. This level of "success" has been maintained over a number of years, despite the fact that most people placed under community supervision by the courts have committed offences of moderate to high seriousness. The Home Office statistics to which Mr Coad refers are those relating to the reconviction rates of persons during the two-year period following completion of sentence in the four years ending 1990. It is recorded that in the two years after completion of a probation order, 53 per cent of probationers were reconvicted. You may be interested to note that the comparable figure for community service orders is 55 per cent, and for imprisonment 57 per cent.

When talking of tougher punishments for criminals, we must all, as responsible citizens, decide whether we want to control crime by vengeance and retribution, or by effective management of criminal behaviour through firm supervision together with assistance to develop a commitment in the individual to change her/his behaviour. The Probation Service is in the business of achieving the latter. The former is a recipe for disaster.

Yours sincerely, SUSAN HINDS Deputy Chief Probation Officer Middlesex Probation Service London, W1

20 January