LETTER:The prisons policy, the judge and his verdicts

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From Mr Paul Cavadino

Sir: Polly Toynbee clearly demonstrates the fallacy of the Home Secretary's argument that "Prison works" ("Listen, minister, prison doesn't work", 31 May). There is, however, mounting evidence that certain forms of supervision in the community do work strikingly well in cutting reoffending.

A growing body of research shows that such supervision programmes can reduce reconviction rates by between 20 and 50 per rent. These include approaches that confront offending behaviour and attitudes, teach offenders to restrain aggression and impulsive behaviour, and provide them with skills training leading to employment. When carried out in prison, similar prograrnmes can help to reduce reoffending on release; but the evidence shows that such work is most effective in the community.

The excessive use of prison has three results. First, it means the unnecessary imprisonment of some offenders who could have been dealt with more effectively by community supervision. Secondly, by overcrowding prisons it reduces their ability to provide constructive regimes that could help to reduce recidivism. Thirdly, because prison is so expensive, it consumes resources that should be used to develop effective community supervision programmes. In short, the misguided "Prison works" policy reduces the likelihood that custodial and non-custodial penalties will fulfil their potential to reduce reoffending.

Yours faithfully,

PAUL CAVADINO

Chair

Penal Affairs Consortium

London, SW9

31 May

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