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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

March 2, 2009: Community Sentences Fuelling Prison Expansion

Government attempts to slow a rapidly rising prison population by a reformed, and credible, community sentences framework have largely failed, according to a new report  by the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. There is evidence that the Community Orders and Suspended Sentence Orders, which came into effect in April 2005, are contributing to the rise in prison numbers, rather than helping to arrest its growth.

The report - The Community Order and the Suspended Sentence Order three years on - independently assesses the impact of the Community Order and Suspended Sentence Order three years on from their implementation. Its findings are based on analysis of government statistics about the use of the two orders and interviews with 25 probation staff and 16 people subject to the orders.

The authors are Professor George Mair of Liverpool John Moores University and Helen Mills, research and policy associate at the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies. Some of the report's key findings:

  • There was a fifteen-fold increase in the use of the Suspended Sentence Order in its first year and a twenty four-fold increase in the three years to 2008. Half of all Suspended Sentence Orders handed out in the magistrates' courts are for the less serious `summary' offences, suggesting that the Orders are being used too often and inappropriately.
  • Both the Community Order and the Suspended Sentence Order appear to be getting tougher and more punitive. Use of unpaid work and curfews has been growing. Both unpaid work and curfew requirements share punishment as a main sentencing purpose, suggesting an increased resort to more punitive requirements.
  • There is no evidence that the Community Order or Suspended Sentence Order are reducing the use of short-term custodial sentences or tackling `uptariffing'. The prison population has continued to grow alongside the increasing use of the two Orders. There is evidence that the sentences are displacing fines, rather than prison.

The Community Order and the Suspended Sentence Order became available to the courts in England and Wales on 4 April 2005. The Community Order replaced the various community sentences that had been available previously, which had developed in a somewhat haphazard fashion during the preceding 100 years: the Community Rehabilitation Order, the Community Punishment Order, the Community Punishment and Rehabilitation Order, the Drug Treatment and Testing Order, the Curfew Order and the Attendance Centre Order. The Suspended Sentence Order represents a revival of the old-style suspended sentence, which had virtually fallen into disuse.

Helen Mills, co-author of the report, said:

`In their ongoing drive for effective management the government maybe undermining a style of work that was valued by those probation officers and people on orders we spoke to.'

Richard Garside, director of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies, said:

`Most people would no doubt prefer a spell of community service to six months in Holloway or Wormwood Scrubs. But the current community sentencing framework appears to be contributing to ongoing prison expansion, not slowing or reversing its growth. The question is, are community sentences part of the solution, or are they part of the problem?'