Prison al­ter­na­tives need more at­ten­tion

The Daily Telegraph - - Letters To The Editor -

SIR – Rory Ste­wart, the prisons min­is­ter, is right that short sen­tences are largely in­ef­fec­tive in re­duc­ing re­of­fend­ing and should be used as rarely as pos­si­ble (re­port, Jan­uary 12).

How­ever, ex­ist­ing sen­tenc­ing guide­lines are clear that a prison sen­tence should be used only when it is deemed un­avoid­able. It is there­fore un­likely that the pro­posed “pre­sump­tion against” short sen­tences would make any sig­nif­i­cant dif­fer­ence.

If the Min­istry of Jus­tice wants to see fewer short sen­tences, it should en­sure that ef­fec­tive com­mu­nity sen­tences are avail­able in ev­ery area of the coun­try, which is not the case at the mo­ment. Mag­is­trates should also be given the power to re­view the progress made by an of­fender serv­ing a com­mu­nity sen­tence. This would mean they could im­pose such sen­tences with con­fi­dence, know­ing that they pro­vide an ap­pro­pri­ate al­ter­na­tive to cus­tody while help­ing of­fend­ers to turn their lives around. John Bache JP

Na­tional Chair­man Mag­is­trates As­so­ci­a­tion Lon­don SW8 SIR – Mr Ste­wart claims that prison sen­tences of less than six months are “too short to heal”.

Prison is sup­posed to be a de­ter­rent. Equally, with ris­ing crime and un­der­staffed po­lice forces, is it not more ap­pro­pri­ate to take bur­glars and the like off the streets? Com­mu­nity sen­tences are akin to a “stay out of jail” card and will only en­cour­age such crim­i­nals to of­fend again. Kim Pot­ter

Lam­bourn, Berk­shire

SIR – It is right to avoid shorter prison sen­tences. This will en­sure that those re­ceiv­ing longer sen­tences are given ac­cess to the scant re­sources avail­able.

With fewer prison staff to su­per­vise pris­on­ers, all too of­ten they have to en­force “lock­down” in their wings, re­sult­ing in pris­on­ers be­ing con­fined to their cells for most of the day. Such con­di­tions do not im­prove pris­on­ers’ well­be­ing: they lead to bit­ter­ness and can re­sult in ag­gres­sive be­hav­iour. This cy­cle must be bro­ken if re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion is to suc­ceed. Jeremy Prescott

South­sea, Hamp­shire

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