LETTER:Making sense of sentencing

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From Mr Stephen Shaw

Sir: Criticism of Michael Howard's sentencing proposals ("Senior Tories attack Howard's jail plans", 5 February) has thus far concentrated on his idea of mandatory penalties for repeat offenders. The other half of the policy - in effect abolishing parole to introduce what the Americans call "truth in sentencing" - is equally dangerous. If implemented, the policy would mean chaos for the Prison Service, both because of a huge rise in prisoner numbers and because the prospect of early release is a powerful incentive for prisoners to behave well.

Mr Howard has taken to mocking the sentencing framework as "half-time sentences for full-time crimes". In fact, all sentences of 12 months or more represent a period of custody, plus supervision, plus liability to serve the remainder of the sentence in prison in the event of reoffending. Every part of the sentence has some meaning.

These arrangements are based on strong research evidence that imprisonment followed by supervision is more likely to reduce reoffending than unconditional release after "full-time" imprisonment. Mr Howard's plans threaten to increase crime, not reduce it.

Yours faithfully,

Stephen Shaw


Prison Reform Trust

London, EC1

5 February