Sentencing in the Dock: The case for a new sentence in the criminal courts of England and Wales
by Emily Farley, Senior Researcher
There are many cases where prison is the right option to satisfy justice, and an effective tool in removing dangerous individuals from our streets, as former Home Secretary Michael Howard once said, ‘prison works.’ For this reason, prison is and will remain an integral part of our justice system.
But prison comes at a price. The average overall cost of a single prison place in England and Wales is now £43,2013. And there is also an opportunity cost for individuals sentenced to custody, who suffer lost family ties, work opportunities and the trauma of the prison environment.
Close to half of those having served a custodial sentence in the prison estate go on to reoffend within a year of their release. And for those sentenced to less than 12 months, this figure rises to 60 per cent. The social and economic cost of this level of reoffending is £18 billion per annum, while the cost to the communities and victims who suffer the effects of crime is immeasurable.
It is the case that our poorest and most vulnerable members of society are often most susceptible to the impact of crime. While safety and punishment have their place, if we are going to serve the most vulnerable in society, then we need to take a proactive approach to rehabilitation.
It is for this reason that the CSJ is proposing the introduction of a new custodial sentence for the criminal courts – one that would be served wholly in the community using newly-available GPS Electronic Monitoring, transdermal alcohol tags, and extended curfew requirements.
The availability of new technology in the market means that we can go further than ever before in seeking new alternatives to custody, while safeguarding the public and commanding the confidence of sentencers. We consider that it is only by enabling individuals to remain in the community, that meaningful rehabilitation can be achieved.
The ICRO presents an opportunity for individuals to serve their sentence without ever being separated from their families – saving thousands of children from the trauma of parental imprisonment. It would also allow for individuals to engage in work and education programmes in the community, where 92 per cent of community learning and skills providers have been rated as ‘good’ or ‘outstanding’.
Those sentenced to an ICRO who already live in settled accommodation will not be required to give up their tenancy but will carry out their custodial sentence in the confines of their home – out of the 71,656 individuals released from custody in 2017-18, fewer than half found settled accommodation on release. And for those battling addictions to drugs and alcohol, they will be able to receive treatment in the community, away from the black market of illicit drugs within the prison estate.
There is so much more that we can and must do to affect lasting rehabilitation in the lives of those passing through our criminal justice system. As we look to build a fairer and safer society, we need a new and brave response to crime, one that believes in the hope of rehabilitation for those in our criminal justice system and seeks a safer society for all.
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