Protecting the public? Community sentences ‘don’t work’

By Tony Hudson

Community sentences are failing to protect the public and are producing a 'revolving door system' which results in an unacceptably high recidivism rate, according to a new report.

The Centre for Crime Prevention (CCP) report revealed that 76% of criminals sent to prison in 2011/12 had previously been given community sentences.

Of those criminals, 64% had previously received at least two community sentences prior to their incarceration.

The report reveals 90,029 community sentences have been given to people who have multiple previous convictions for more serious crimes.

"These figures prove that letting thousands of criminals off with one community sentence after another is failing. One hundred and twenty thousand crimes were committed last year by criminals given community sentences", CCP director Peter Cuthbertson said.

"Stiff prison sentences protect the public and have lower reoffending rates. Community sentences fail to protect the public and fail to stop reoffending. Prison works."

The report goes on to claim that the longer the prison sentence, the less likely a person is to reoffend.

According to the report, only 4.7% of adults who serve indeterminate or life sentences reoffend in the first year after their release,  15% of those sentenced to more than ten years and 30% of those sentenced to between four and ten years.

The community sentences were often justified by supporters as a better alternative to the high number of short prison sentences.

While the statistics do support the notion of short sentencing being ineffective on recidivism rates, the CCP claims they prove community sentencing is not the answer.

This appears to contradict the claims made by David Hanson MP who, in 2008, said prison "is not necessarily the best route for less serious offenders" and community sentencing "cuts the likelihood of re-offending on release, and in doing so cuts crime".