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News Archives: Index

October 7, 2010: Probation Set For Industrial Action

October 5, 2010: Turning Prisoners Into Taxpayers

October 4, 2010: Murder Changes Now In Force

September 20, 2010: Probation Programmes Face Cuts

August 24, 2010: Victorian Poor Law Records Online

August 10, 2010: Justice Job Cuts

July 28, 2010: Prison Violence Growing

July 22, 2010: Police Numbers: Latest Figures

July 22, 2010: New Jurisdiction Rules

July 16, 2010: CCJS On Prison And Probation Spending Under Labour

July 15, 2010: Latest Statistics On Violent And Sexual Crime

July 15, 2010: Latest National Crime Figures

July 15, 2010: New Chief Prisons Inspector

July 14, 2010: Hard Times Ahead For Prisons: Anne Owers

July 14, 2010: Prison Does Not Work: Ken Clarke

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform: Sentencing and Rehabilitation

July 13, 2010: Criminal Justice Reform Priorities

July 12, 2010: What Price Public Protection, Asks Probation Chief Inspector

July 12, 2010: NOMS has failed, says Napo

July 10, 2010: IPCC To Investigate Death of Raoul Moat

July 9, 2010: Women In Prison: New Report

July 9, 2009: Unjust Deserts: Imprisonment for Public Protection

July 8, 2010: Police Search Powers Change

July 7, 2010: Make 'Legal High' Illegal, Says ACMD

July 2, 2010: Failing Children In Prison

July 2, 2010: Police Buried Under a Blizzard of Guidance: HMIC

July 1, 2010: Freedom To Change The Law?

June 30, 2010: A New Outlook On Penal Reform?

June 30, 2010: Revolving Door Of Offending Must Stop, Says Clarke

June 30, 2010: Ken Clarke: Speech on Criminal Justice Reform

June 29, 2010: No More Police Targets

June 26, 2010: Family Intervention Projects Questioned

June 25, 2010: Cutting Criminal Justice

June 24, 2010: Napo on Sex Offenders Report

June 23, 2010: Closing Courts: The Cuts Begin

June 23, 2010: Strategy To Tackle Gangs

June 15, 2010: Courts and Mentally Disordered Offenders

June 8, 2010: Working With Muslims in Prison

June 1, 2010: Your Chance To Nominate a QC

July 15, 2008: Explaining The Rise In Prison Numbers

The government's analysis of factors driving up the prison population is `inadequate' and `highly misleading' according to a new report from the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College London.

The report, by Professor Carol Hedderman of the University of Leicester - a former Assistant Director of research in the Home Office - challenges the government's explanation for the factors driving up the prison population set out in Carter's Review of Prisons.

'Building on sand: Why expanding the prison estate is not the way to `secure the future' states that Lord Carter's analysis is `largely unevidenced'. It argues that the increased use of imprisonment has not been driven by more offences being brought to justice. For example, the numbers convicted for burglary have dropped by an average of 1,400 per year since 1995.

The increased use of custody has been affected by the sentencing of some serious offences, but there is little sign that, overall, the courts are dealing with more serious cases now than they were in the mid 1990s. They are simply responding more punitively.

The biggest single change in sentencing behaviour concerns the number and the length of custodial sentences for less serious property offences and other cases which are too trivial to be sent to the Crown Court. Prison reconviction rates have escalated as the population has increased. The public appetite for prison is more limited and more susceptible to reasoned argument than the government acknowledges. Expanding the prison estate will generate not satiate demand.

The report suggests a number of possible policy reforms to slow the rise in prison numbers. These include:

  • Immediately introducing a structured sentencing framework, perhaps under the aegis of the current Sentencing Guidelines Council.
  • Limiting magistrates' powers to use custody for non-violent summary offences and in particular discourage sentencers from using custody for theft and handling.
  • Developing a recognised measure - or `QALY'- of public safety, similar to that used by National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence for medical treatments, so that the impact and value of imprisonment and other sanctions can be compared in a common currency.
  • Greater use of local communication initiatives to inform the public about just how frequently the courts are resorting to custody.

Professor Carol Hedderman said:

`The current public debate on the use of prison is sterile. The moment you query why the prison population is going up you risk being branded as being soft on crime and putting prisoners' interests before that of the public.'

'We need to move the debate on to more fertile territory. One important question is who are we using prison for and is it making us any safer? The government makes statements about reserving prison for the serious and dangerous but the figures tell a different story.'

'We also need to ask just how much this rise in imprisonment is costing us and whether it represents good value for money. There is very little information available to answer these questions but the figures which are around suggest that there are much more cost effective ways of dealing with many of those we currently send to prison.'

Enver Solomon deputy director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies at King's College said:

`The Justice Secretary Jack Straw has called for a rational sensible debate about the use of prison based on evidence. Carol Hedderman's analysis provides the evidence for such a debate and should be required reading for policy makers and politicians who need to enhance their understanding of the drivers behind the relentless rise in prison numbers.'