Pris­ons chief calls for end of shorter prison terms

The Courier & Advertiser (Fife Edition) - - NEWS -

The chief in­spec­tor of pris­ons in Scot­land has called for jail terms of less than a year to be abol­ished.

David Strang said there should be a “more cre­ative ap­proach” to sen­tenc­ing than lock­ing peo­ple up for short pe­ri­ods.

He ad­vo­cated com­mu­nity-based op­tions, say­ing the ev­i­dence shows short prison terms do not cut crime.

Speak­ing to the BBC, he said: “The ev­i­dence is very clear that if you want to re­duce crime then you do not send peo­ple to prison for a short time.

“Peo­ple who are re­leased from a short sen­tence of less than 12 months, over half of them are re­con­victed within a year.

“I would have thought that one pur­pose of the crim­i­nal jus­tice sys­tem is to pre­vent fu­ture crimes, to re­duce re­of­fend­ing and that if you send some­one to prison then the dam­age that that does leads to them re­of­fend­ing more than if you had given them an al­ter­na­tive.”

Com­mu­nity sen­tences he backed in­cluded fines and pay­back or­ders.

Scot­tish Con­ser­va­tive shadow jus­tice sec­re­tary Liam Kerr warned against in­trud­ing into judge dis­cre­tion.

“Short-term prison sen­tences can play an im­por­tant role in our jus­tice sys­tem and it would be lu­di­crous to end them,” he said.

The Scot­tish ju­di­cial sys­tem al­ready pre­sumes against im­pos­ing sen­tences be­low three months since 2010.

The SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion is con­sult­ing on whether to ex­tend that to a year.

The Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment says the prison pop­u­la­tion is “un­ac­cept­ably high” and is fo­cus­ing more at­ten­tion on com­mu­nity sen­tences.

A spokesman in­sisted cus­to­dial terms are “ab­so­lutely jus­ti­fied” for some crimes.

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