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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 10, 2010: Rehabilitating Offenders On Short Prison Sentences

More could be done to rehabilitate prisoners serving short sentences and reduce their risk of re-offending, according to a report just published by the National Audit Office. The National Offender Management Service (NOMS), responsible for managing such prisoners, has little information on the quality, cost or effectiveness of its rehabilitation activities.

More than 60,000 prisoners serve sentences of under 12 months each year at a cost to NOMS of around £300 million. These prisoners present a significant challenge to NOMS: they tend to have more previous convictions than other offenders, with an average of 16 previous convictions each and, as a group, they also have a high level of homelessness, joblessness and drug and alcohol problems.

NOMS is successfully keeping the vast majority of short-sentenced prisoners safe and well - a notable achievement in a time of prison overcrowding - but is currently struggling to manage this group effectively, in part because most spend six weeks or less in prison.

Although short-sentenced prisoners are kept secure, safe and well, the provision of daytime activity for them is generally inadequate to meet HM Inspectorate of Prisons' standards for a healthy prison. This is partly because of overcrowding and constraints of physical space, which mean that there are not enough activity spaces for all prisoners.

Despite the cycle of re-offending and NOMS' target to reduce this, the NAO found that one half of short-sentenced prisoners are not involved in work or courses and spend almost all day in their cells. Prisons offer a range of courses and other activities to reduce re-offending; but waiting lists are too long and, with the exception of drug services, prisons often do not match prisoners with appropriate assistance.

Only a small proportion of prison budgets is spent on activity intended to reduce re-offending by prisoners on short sentences, despite the fact that 60 per cent of such prisoners are reconvicted within a year of release, at an estimated economic and social cost of £7 billion to £10 billion a year. The NAO argues that NOMS could achieve greater value for money by improving prisons' work with these offenders.

The Ministry of Justice and NOMS are developing a new strategy to improve the management of prisoners who are sentenced to less than 12 months, but, with pilots still to be completed, these bodies have yet to set out in detail the activities and prisoners to be prioritised and the measures of effectiveness, including cost-effectiveness, and targeted outcomes they will adopt.

Mr Amyas Morse, head of the National Audit Office, said today:

"NOMS is successfully keeping the vast majority of short-sentenced prisoners safe and well - a notable achievement in a time of prison overcrowding - and in this respect it is delivering value."

"Achieving NOMS' goal of reducing re-offending by short-sentenced prisoners is challenging both because there are so many prisoners and because of the few weeks they have in custody. However, it is reasonable to expect progress towards that goal. More coherent plans for prisoners, tailored to reducing their risk of re-offending would be a good first step. As they take their new strategy forward, NOMS and the Ministry have the opportunity to put the management of short-sentenced prisoners on a better footing."