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How can we reduce reoffending?

04:40 UK time, Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Reoffending by criminals serving short sentences costs the UK taxpayer up to £10bn a year, says a report. Is prison the right answer?

Around 60,000 prisoners are jailed for less than 12 months each year, mostly for theft and minor violent crimes. But 60% go on to commit another crime within a year of release.

A report by the National Audit Office says inmates are not given "appropriate assistance" to help them turn around their lives. About half spent almost all day in their cells, rather than being engaged in training and rehabilitation.

Juliet Lyon, director of the Prison Reform Trust, said: "The evidence is clear that community penalties, treatment for addicts, mental healthcare and sorting out housing and employment all work better than a short prison sentence."

How can we reduce reoffending? Should inmates receive better rehabilitation? Should we scrap short sentences and give community penalties instead?

This debate has now been closed. Thank you for your comments.


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  • Comment number 1.

    Don't let them out of jail and let them suffer for turning their backs on society. Once you commit a crime and in prison you forfeit your rights so he can just stay there forever and ever. Sounds like a plan to me! Would certainly solve the problem.

  • Comment number 2.

    In order to go to prison for minor crime now one needs to be a persistant offender. After numerous cautions, ASBO's, fines and community service for the few crimes out of many that they actually get caught for the justice system has to step up a gear but even then only hands out ridiculously short sentences which are immediately cut in half.

    Perhaps, just perhaps, if the first offence someone was caught for was treated more harshly it may stop the offender getting used to commiting crime and interrupt progression up the criminal ladder.

    So yes, scrap short sentences ...

    ... and replace them with long ones.

  • Comment number 3.

    First of all we should ignore these biased reports from quangoes or boffin groups that come out in their scores every day. We all know they can make their findings fit any result their sponsors want. In this case the Prison Reform Trust is anti-tough prisons, so its findings are slanted that way. Why should the BBC be taken in by rubbish reports that flood all the media? Ignore them. Report the news instead of giving publicity to this biased rubbish. On prisons...I believe in an American Penitentiary system which costs about £3,000 per prisoner per annum. A lot cheaper than our system which is over ten times the cost.

  • Comment number 4.

    Community Payback, for one who does not like this Government I thought this was a great idea. I saw a group of offenders cleaning the rubbish from our local cemetery and cutting back hedges. I could tell because they were wearing bright orange jackets. (I don’t know weather I liked that) However, where I live there is rubbish in the lakes and water ways and on the beach that has been there for years so you can’t say this would be taking work from others as no one has attempted to clean it up, also there is the long time unemployed why pay people for doing nothing. Don’t get me wrong I am not saying the benefit takers are akin to criminals. Keep the violent offenders, rapists ect locked up, but the ones that might have done much lesser crimes, could be tagged and told to report for work. I am sure there will be some comments as to how do you organize/monitor this type of work but surly in the twenty second century it is not impossible.

    As you can tell I Hate RUBBISH/LITTER.

  • Comment number 5.

    Rehabilitation is a fantastic idea, and I'm all for it. Unfortunately, whatever process they're currently using to 'rehabilitate' our offenders just isn't working. For some people, prison is a holiday camp, with better friends, meals and accommodation than they had outside, so it's no deterrent at all.

    For a start, in addition to any changes in rehabilitation, all prisoners should be made to work for their keep. How about chain gangs filling in the UK's thousands of potholes, for example? Or doing other work of real benefit to society? Councils are always complaining how strapped for cash they are, and forever increasing our council tax to pay for work that needs doing: why, when they've got a completely free workforce just sitting there doing nothing?

    This would actually help offenders learn co-operation and teamwork, useful skills, and the value of hard work.

  • Comment number 6.

    I know i will be in a minority here but never mind. One of the reasons many of these people will re-offend is because once they are released they have no option. CRB checks re required for so many jobs now mean that their crminal past becomes common knowledge and how many employers given the choice of employing an ex-criminal and a an unconvicted person will employ the criminal or even consider them for an interview where they could explain and perhaps convince someone they have changed their ways?
    I am not for mollycoddling these ex-criminals and also believe that some punishment is too weak, cautions, community service etc. But after they have completed their punishment there needs to be some sense in what information is released and to whom it is released. I believe there should be a time limit on how long after an offence, relative to that offence, that a recod can be released from police files. The police can keep that information on record but it should not be given out, to anyone, unless they re-appear in court.
    At the moment within the establishment and many of the newspapers there seems to be the attitude that once a criminal always a criminal.
    If you will not give people a chance to reform and re-build their lives don't be surprised if they continue in their old ways.

  • Comment number 7.

    Harsher sentences earlier. Once you have a criminal record another small stay in jail is no deterrent clearly. Also prison has become the soft option if it no longer deters crime. Prisons need to be harsher less comfortable environment as clearly they do not currently stop reoffenders. What about community service under armed guard. Prison is not working as a punishment as it is basically a hotel.

  • Comment number 8.

    Prisons , what Prisons ? do they mean the 4 Star hotels the call Prisons ? TV in every room, the best of Medical treatment, jump to the front of the in Hospital waiting rooms. Given a menu on Fridays to see what they would like to eat the following week, oh yes and if you are a bit classy then you can go to a 5 star hotel without walls and even go into town shopping, I can think of many pensioners who would love to get that treatment.
    Is it little wander that they reoffend and walk out of the dock smiling ? Prisons should be tough, then they WOULD think twice before reaffending. at the moment its more like an holiday camp.

  • Comment number 9.

    I wish it was an easy problem to solve, by just dumping offenders into prison and throwing away the keys. Fact is, offenders think it is worth their while to re-offend.

    I suggest lengthening sentences whilst making good use of offenders by having them carry out useful manual tasks. eg clearing roadside litter, mending potholes, layering hedges, cleaning out waterways and removing pavement chewing gum. Offenders by this means earn some of their keep, gain work habits and skills and lose their freedom.

  • Comment number 10.

    I know people that have been inside and they all say it’s a joyride.

    Criminals have no fear of going back to prison because they are not treated as offenders any more they are treated as victims, they get support and counselling instead of punishment, they are told that it’s not their fault it’s societies fault and most spend less than 45% of their original sentence behind bars.

    It’s time the charities and penal reformers were ignored, the do gooder’s shunned, weak out of touch judges should be sacked, and parasite lawyers on the gravy train brought back down to earth with a hard slam and the human rights act was torn up as far as these people are concerned.

    They must be made to be fearful of the law again and dread going into prison, full terms should be served in all cases. No TV, games stations, radio’s etc and we should adopt the 3 strikes and your out for good system.

    But even more than that we need to come down like a ton of bricks on first offenders (of any age) IE bust up a telephone box at 13 and 1 month inside a work camp, back in front of the magistrate before release to be told next time it’s six months (not so funny then is it).

    Time to turn back the clock.

  • Comment number 11.

    They should be made to work 12 hours a day FREE compolsury. Like most us now, government factories etc... that way they would automaticaly pay the cost of the PRISON, that would actually make profit to goverment/CHARITY
    AND this would in a way would pay for the damage they made to society(us).

  • Comment number 12.

    Who said Tough on Crime Tough on the causes of crime? if the Government did just that instead of doing the very opposite then our Prisons would not have this problem, its self inflicted by a Government who handed over control to the goody goody brigade, the same ones who are now saying the system don't work, well the reason it dose not works is because you lot will not admit you were wrong, and who,s paid the highest price? those of us who have been offended against, but I see no mention about that in your reports.
    Small shop Keepers and and others have installed CCTV taken advice from this Governments agencies only to be let down, to put it simply by a system thats soft on crime and soft on the causes of crime.

  • Comment number 13.

    Prison is something that should be feared. It should be somewhere that makes your life a living hell. As it stands, some view it as a free paradise.

    Prison should be about punishment and deterrent, not rehabilitation.

  • Comment number 14.

    If we had a new landmass we could ship them to it. However in 100 years they'd be doing far better than the serfs at home. Could it be that the blinding inequalities of the UK make crime inevitable? Ask our MPs.

  • Comment number 15.

    It is easy to stop reoffending;
    1. Give stiffer sentences
    2. Make prisoners serve their full sentence -no time off at all
    3.No or any itemsof amusement in cells -just a Bible abed and awash basin.
    4. Make full use of the cell -lock 'em up.
    5 Stop pampering prisoners.
    A few months of the above and all prisoners would be very appreciative of freedom and alife freefromcrime.

  • Comment number 16.

    Make prison extremely uncomfortable, strangely I and many, many others are nor concerned with thier human rights. If an offender has lets say, stolen my property, and unfortunately been caught by the police before I could, been tried and convicted, I want to be sure that for the vast majority of his or her time they sit staring at a blank wall contmplating what they have done. I do not want them with central heating, TV's, pool tables etc etc. I have no problem with trying to get some education in to these people but as for luxuries, no, luxuries are for those who deserve them, an inmate most certainly does not. I think if prison were seen as thoroughly unpleasant and as far from a badge of honour as you can get, then matbe, just maybe some of these people may choose a different career.

  • Comment number 17.

    Bring in the same system as they use in America, stop all this TV's, Radios, ect, etc, and start punishing people who break the law and offend, and get this country out of this stupid pointless human rights treaty that so many of them hide behind and use to there own means.

  • Comment number 18.

    For many offenders, prison is a step up in comfort from life outside. comfortable cells, tv, good recreational facilities, and food for which the taxpayer pays more than the food allowance for squaddies on active service. They don't go to rehabilitation because they would rather lounge on their beds watching tv. If Tolstoy were alive in Britain today, he would have to name his book "Crime and Reward"

  • Comment number 19.

    Harsher sanctions. Bring back public flogging for anti social behaviour. Let those caught and convicted be flogged in front of their peers. Let their peers see them shed tears and soil their clothes. How big will they feel after that!

  • Comment number 20.

    They should really consider sending them to the third world countries prisons. They really are almost equivalent to death penalty and will certainly stop these nincompoops from ever committing a crime again. The only problem is that the human rights organizations will not let this happen on their watch.

  • Comment number 21.

    Bring back prison sentences with hard labour eg. breaking rocks etc.

  • Comment number 22.

    Make prison a place you don't want to go - loss of rights, privileges, hard labour etc, instead of having it as a Holiday Camp.

  • Comment number 23.

    Criminal behaviour is like smoking, until you really want to stop, you won't be able to give it up, however much help you get.

    Many of those convicted of the sort of low-level crime that attracts short gaol sentences are drug users attempting to fund their habit with their crimes. Until they can stop drug use, they will continue to commit crimes - and gaol is not at present good at helping drug users to quit the habit. This needs to be improved.

    There is also a very low standard of basic education amongst many of these 'revolving door short-term' convicts. Perhaps they ought not to be released until they have achieved basic capability in reading, writing and arithmetic.

  • Comment number 24.

    Many petty offenders will continue to offend because they are unable to function in our society (mental health problems and so on). And of course, prisoners are the criminals who get caught and most criminals do not get caught. There is another large tranche of prisoners who are migrants to the UK - best solution is to deport them regardless of any pretended human rights.

    The drugs laws are also responsible for far too many people being in the criminal justice system although drugs policy has manifestly failed.

    Most petty offenders should have community punishments. Gaol should be reserved for violent offenders who are a threat to other people.

    And women should not be able to avoid gaol because of their gender.

  • Comment number 25.

    In my opinion, we need more strict law to prevent crimes. The reason of reoffending is that there is no certain, powerful punishment, so criminals don't think crimes bring high danger about themselves. These days, Law is too generous because of the discussion of humanity. If we keep trying to protect the criminals' humanity everytime, things will get worse and worse again.

  • Comment number 26.

    One law for the majority a different one for a minority.

    The whole system will be in disrepute whilst the biggest criminal of all remains free to walk our streets.

    When is the war criminal Tony Blair going to be put safely behind bars?

  • Comment number 27.

    Perhaps if prison was tougher the inmates would not want to go back! It is no deterrant, with its 3 meals a day, playstaion, facebook/computer access and ample drugs.

    When someone commits a crime they should get hard labour, whether breaking rocks of tackling the worse jobs in the community, make the sentence so bad that the very thought og goig back inside fills the ex-offender with dread....and as for "their" rights, these were wavered when they commited the crime, the law
    should change to reflect this!

    This country is too soft with too many do-gooders, "oh he never had a Playstation when he was a kid, lets send him on safari" what a load of rubbish!!!

  • Comment number 28.

    The community service option is an attractive one, but I wonder, as this current hoo-hah relates to monetary cost, about the cost of that.

    Perhaps my vision of how it all works is wrong, but it seems to me that having - say - 100 prisoners locked in their cells supervised by one or two people (albeit with more in reserve if there's any trouble) has to be cheaper than sending out parties of one or two prisoners on community service, each with a prison officer supervisor and a job supervisor?

    If community service negated the need for the prison cells, then I could see how - in purely monetary terms - society would win, but since the prisoners return to the cells at the end of a working day you surely have to operate (heat, light, maintain) the prison as before AND provide (and pay) for an increased number of staff to supervise the days work? That must surely more than wipe out any gains?

    Perhaps I misunderstand how such a system works? Can anyone lighten my darkness?

    Yes, I completely agree that there is far more to prisoner rehab than just the monetary angle, but reducing the £10bn cost of re-offending is what the current question is mainly about.

    Alan T

  • Comment number 29.

    How about having a grown up society, legalise all drugs, and treat addiction as a health issue. Buy the poppy harvest use it within the NHS and use some of it to supply clean Heroin to addicts which would cost us the taxpayers approximately £1.50p - £2 per day per addict.
    Prison should for those who are deemed a danger for society such as burglars, muggers, sex offenders and anyone committing a violent act it should not be used to lock up people for non payment of council tax.

  • Comment number 30.

    Identi-chip them and make them take out third party insurance to cover the damage/injury/loss they cause. If it's good enough for respons1ble dog owners.....?

  • Comment number 31.

    If offenders are so keen on reoffending then it probably means that prison is not seen as a punishment.

    Longer sentences, fewer playstations and perks and NO human rights in prison.

    Why are the law abiding majority having to tolerate the actions of the law breaking minority?

  • Comment number 32.

    Stop letting them out of jail in the first place.

  • Comment number 33.

    Bring back capital punishment, deportation and the stocks.

  • Comment number 34.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 35.

    Rehabilitate them? You can't rehabilitate those who have no wish or desire to change.

    Isn't it about time we move away from these 'do gooders'. Make prisons a place you don't want to go to in the first place, make that the deterrent. Prison are now just Holiday Homes for criminals!!

  • Comment number 36.

    The Audit Office are right to alert us to the enormous cost of re-offending! However, they seem to be living in a different world from the rest of us. Their idealist solutions to reducing the prison population and opt for more community sentencing will not work. There are not enough trained Probation officers and community sentencing supervisors to ensure offenders complete their sentences. Community sentences also have an enormous cost. Many prisoners have already had the chance of community sentencing and have breached the terms. They are already repeat offenders before going in to custody. Rehabilitation - there are many prisons doing excellent work in the reduction of re - offending. Is this the only function of prisons? Of course not! Some offenders need to be taken out of circulation because of the serious nature and repetative nature of their crimes: i.e. punishment! That seems a dirty word these days. There is a lot of petty crime that blights poor neighbourhoods - the ASBO brigades. They need to be taken off the streets in order that their victims can have a break!!!! Victims need to have bigger say in what reparation the perpetrators should undergo. Take prisoners into custody and treat them like dogs will only produce more ferocious dogs. Some of your commentators seem to be lock em' up and throw away the key brigade. This does not work. The silent majority are scared of offenders and do not want to get involved with the police in order for them to better deal with offenders. The Police have a lot of work to do in reassuring the public that they will be protected. How the Police must be frustrated when courts and the justice system appear to be soft on offenders and the same offenders are back on the streets after going to court and laugh at the weaknesses they perceive the Police to be suffering from. Society as a whole needs to be involved in the reduction of re-offending. We know that if ex-prisoners have a job or worthwhile training, a stable relationship and somewhere to live their likelyhood of re-offending is reduced by more than 50%. Working with prisoners is hardly fashionable or glamourous. It's frustrating but also, very rewarding. Society, in general, cannot turn their backs on this problem and hope someone else will deal with it. You could be the next victim.

  • Comment number 37.

    Sad as it seems crime is a way of life for some and going to jail for a few weeks is just part of it all.Now if it were say 6 years and not 6 months it may have a chance.

  • Comment number 38.

    You should first of all build more prisons, ignoring the not-in-my-back-yard lobby.

    Secondly, make prisons somewhere to be afraid of, no computers, no mobile phones, no games, no television. Just hard work.

    Rehabilitation will be easier when prisoners are determined never to return.

  • Comment number 39.

    Re-offending rates are high because inmates like prison, don't mind being in prison or can tolerate it with ease.
    This is one reason why I don't vote. This does not need the brains of Britain to fix, but our politicians fail to understand its significance.
    The tax payer buys more un-necessary prisons, and pays for its upkeep and suffers the extra crimes from reoffenders.

  • Comment number 40.

    Is the Government devoid of any intelligence? If criminals re-offend then the sentence was either to short or the conditions under which it was served were to easy. Both reasons have an easy solution.

  • Comment number 41.

    Sadly in this country we have places where unless you are particularly strong-minded you have an 80%-90% chance of becoming a criminal.

    Sociologists can list all the factors which contribute to making a person a criminal so the government's first job is one of prevention by identifying such areas and changing the conditions under which people grow up.

    Prison has two main functions. Firstly,it is there to protect the rest of society from criminal behaviour by detaining the criminal and secondly it is there to rehabilitate and prepare the criminal for their eventual return to society, though for some criminals that will never happen.

    Given that many criminals re-offend once released it is clear that some responsible for prison life are so keen to release prisoners that they will do so even if the prisoner is still a risk and even if they have not been properly re-habilitated.

    New Labour is very poor at strategic planning and sadly, despite its protests,it has been soft on crime and the causes of crime.

    Because the prisons focus more on the detention of prisoners, prisoners become restless and because they are under-staffed and underfunded prisons are not able to perform the necessary rehabilitation tasks e.g. making certain the prisoner has a job to go to on release.

    Prisons do not have enough time or resources to reform prisoners so we need to change the policy that says good behaviour will lead to early release to saying bad behaviour in prison will lead to sentences being extended.

    Both the prisoners and the public need to know that when a judge sentences a prisoner to 10 years in prison, that is the minimum they will spend behind bars.

    Prisoner supervision needs to be improved by building prisons with covert and extensive CCTV coverage, which has no loopholes.Prison have to be so secure and well organised that prisoners give up all hope of escape and accept that release at the end of their sentence is their only salvation.

    We also need to vastly improve the monitoring system which monitors prisoners once they have left prison.Too often we hear that prisoners have re-offended rather than having mechanisms in place to prevent that from happening.

    Some prisoners - so-called "career criminals",however, will never reform and should remain in prison for life.

    Prisons do work but their effectiveness is reduced and undermined by underfunding, understaffing, lack of organisation, planning & training and ill thoughout political and managerial thinking.

  • Comment number 42.

    If prison isn't working then the prisons are too soft. How about hard labour? For terms less than 13 months you include 8hrs a day hard labour, six days a week, working them until they drop. Perhaps then prison would offer a deterrence to crime. We really need to stop listening to the prison reform trust and other left wing institutions that state prison is wrong or we are too hard on criminals; the converse is true and we are far, far too soft on them. When they come out of prison the experience should have been so horrific they should never, ever want to set foot inside one again. We spend too much time trying to rehabilitate these people instead of concentrating on punishment and compensation for the victims of their crimes. Everyone has choices in life. If you chose the criminal path then you must expect severe and harsh punishments.

  • Comment number 43.

    Minor offenders should be given community work to do and it should not be a soft option but hard work so that makes nobody doing it want to re-offend. Serious crimes should also warrant serious punishments. Prison should not be a place where anyone wants to find themselves. For a long time,in this country,we have given much too much thought to the well-being of prisoners and not enough to the people they have heaped misery upon.

  • Comment number 44.

    @8. At 06:16am on 10 Mar 2010, Kingstonman wrote:

    Prisons , what Prisons ? do they mean the 4 Star hotels the call Prisons ? TV in every room, the best of Medical treatment, jump to the front of the in Hospital waiting rooms. Given a menu on Fridays to see what they would like to eat the following week, oh yes and if you are a bit classy then you can go to a 5 star hotel without walls and even go into town shopping, I can think of many pensioners who would love to get that treatment.
    Is it little wander that they reoffend and walk out of the dock smiling ? Prisons should be tough, then they WOULD think twice before reaffending. at the moment its more like an holiday camp.


    Fancy trying it yourself then, a two week vacation at Pentonville prison instead of the usual grind in the Bahamas, thought not!

  • Comment number 45.

    More than 70% of the prison population has two or more mental health disorders. Male prisoners are 14 times more likely to have two or more disorders than men in general, and female prisoners 35 times more likely than women in general.

    - Social Exclusion Unit (2004)

    Perhaps the above statistics need to be considered. From failing mental health services are derived many (re)offenders!

  • Comment number 46.

    14 years of tea and sympathy have proved that the idea of 'rehabilitation' is fake.

    Its time to be hard. Its time to make criminals realise that there really is nothing worse then going back inside.

  • Comment number 47.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 48.

    "The prison system in the U.K. is just a dumping ground for misfits and homeless people "very sad" {its much cheaper to warehouse them in jail} , than to look after them? Only The real criminals should be in jail, all illegals should be deported after there jail time, or before and all terrorist should be held on old navy ships in the North of england there are plenty of mothball ships, in the U.S.A. for that purpose. We as taxpayers cannot afford any more new prisons' many are like good hotels.

  • Comment number 49.

    prison isnt just about punishment its about taking criminalas off the streets, and giving society a break from them, we talk about the cost of keeping prisoners locked up, well how does that balance against the cimes they are committing on the streets, because surely if its just about cost then we need to readdress the whole stratagy of crime and punishment, prison doesnt just punish the offenders it also punishes their families,with benifits payments,outside as well as inside, we have criminal families that probally account for 50% of all crime, with the rest being attributed to drugs and alcohol, prison doesnt work,but whats the alternative, chinas organ factories.??

  • Comment number 50.

    Not treating inmates like holiday guests would be a good start. It's time to take those "kid gloves" off, rip up the humans rights act, tell the liberals they've totally failed and make prison a hell that a person never wants to return to:

    1. Chain gangs - get them out in bright yellow clothing, chained together and clearing the streets and rivers choked with filth and litter.
    2. Boot camp - get the ASBO loving yobs up at 5am for one hell of a P.E session
    3. Hard labour - get the "hardened" criminals breaking rocks and sewing mail bags
    4. Three strikes and you're out – I don't care that your third offence was for stealing a chocolate bar. If they haven't got the message by now then perhaps it's time for one of the activities above

    Enough is enough. It's time to get tough.

  • Comment number 51.

    I work in the criminal justice system. Here is how it is. Criminal is arrested. Gets into police station and says "I want to see the doctor" - police can't refuse and so a doctor is obtained at private rates & give said person some diazepam (90% are on the dole through choice & doing drugs - if you talk to them about how working would help get back on their feet they laught & tell you it's not worth it as they get enough on thier benefits!) - so taxpayer down now about £70 for the doc & private prescription. How long do *you* have to wait for a doctor's appointment? Next comes free solicitor who will try & block the poluice as much as possible - not just protect clients rights (which is only propoer. All paid for by you! The magistrates will usualy just give bind over, fine (which is then not paid because they are uneployed - funny how they can all afford the latest phone, alcohol, brand name clothing etc, but can't afford thier fines!)or some such pointless thing. This goes no for years & years before finaly they lock them up for a month or so. But by then, everything about our system has confirmed the person into their way of life - we actually *reward* them for criminality. - YOU don't get free prescritpions or private consulations as a tax payer doo you? Or a free house, food, cigarettes, alcohol.... So of course we are getting repeat offenders - we are making them!

  • Comment number 52.

    "Both the prisoners and the public need to know that when a judge sentences a prisoner to 10 years in prison, that is the minimum they will spend behind bars." - sorry, that's incorrect. It actually means they will serve 5 years. I think most of the public are unaware of that.

  • Comment number 53.

    The UK has brought this upon themselves. We are too soft by a long, long way. Firstly, rehabilitation doesn't work if these statistics are correct so get rid of it. Secondly, the moment a person is convicted, their human rights should go out the window and only re-instated upon release. Thirdly, prison sentences should be the minimum handed down by the courts with no release for good behaviour. Fourthly, adopt some of the Far Eastern prison practices such as not feeding, clothing or providing comfort items to a prisoner, family members relatives or friends must do that. In other words toughen up the regime without introducing physical violence.

  • Comment number 54.

    Bang them up for longer.

  • Comment number 55.

    It's pretty obvious to everyone with a brain cell that a short rest in a cushy little hotel for a few months paid for by someone ellse is going to be wonderful to recharge the batteries. Maybe, just maybe, it's the ridiculously short sentences and the pathetic state of the prisons (in some ways better than some hospitals) that is to blame here...

  • Comment number 56.

    So the public loose out as victims of crime, we then loose out by paying for the police, criminal justice system, prisons etc and now it is proposed that we pay again for rehabilitation courses.
    Why dont we just give criminals a big fat cheque and ask them nicely if they wouldnt mind stopping their criminal behaviour.

  • Comment number 57.

    Make jail a punishment instead of a holiday camp. Make the experience of being in jail one which the offender would would be terrified to repeat. Bring back flogging and hard labour.

  • Comment number 58.

    "I can think of many pensioners who would love to get that treatment." [Kingstonman]

    I dare you to ask one & see what you get.

  • Comment number 59.

    1) Keep them in longer
    2) Make prison tough, as opposed to the holiday-camps they are now.

  • Comment number 60.

    We need to decriminalise all drugs and set out policies that work ie: free injection clinics for heroin addicts.

    This will cut petty crime by 80% overnight and drastically reduce organised crime also.

    The war on drugs has failed and policies such as i'm suggesting are being used all over europe with breath taking results. The dutch are actually closing prisons as they have so few people to put in them.

    No politician will say this though which is proof they care more about power than whats good for the country. They know what needs to be done the proof is plain for them to see.

  • Comment number 61.

    Oh good grief - why am I still surprised to read the same old twaddle on here? I'd love to know exactly WHAT crimes are the most often repeated, and why, then we might be able to target resources more effectively, surely more constructive than this 'lock everyone up' idiocy (have you any idea of how many new prisons that idea would need?).

  • Comment number 62.

    Well, if you're a repeat offender then you're obviously not worried about being caught or imprisoned by the justice system are you?

    That's because it's soft.

    Labours promises on being tough on crime sure sound hollow now.

  • Comment number 63.

    I suspect that our Criminal Justice Policy is primarily driven by media fear raising aimed at selling more newspapers and getting more viewers and listeners.

    It is failing.

    I recall a previous "crisis" around the time I became "An Officer of the Court" in 1975 when I think prison numbers were at around 42,000. We've got to over 80,000 and I detect not greater sense of safety, only increased fear of crime.

    The scramble for votes that is now under way is such that few politicians will talk frankly about criminal justice for at least another month or so, and for some they never will. I am supremely pessimistic.

    I am against pre moderation. Lets see the nonsense and obscenities our fellow Subjects post, it would be illustrative of the state of society.

  • Comment number 64.

    "All new members are pre-moderated initially, which means that there will be a short delay between when you post your comment and when it appears while one of our moderators checks it"

    New!! I have been posting for years on BBC Messageboards, when does Nanny realise that I am unlikely to post something obscene or personally offensive or illegal?

  • Comment number 65.

    I'm not surprised people re offend if the punishment for a minor crime is community service.
    Life choice 1 = work every day.
    Life Choice 2 = commit minor crime and live on dole. Possibly work some days as community service. Eventually , possibly, do some time in prison, with your mates, playing playstation, watching TV, doing drugs.
    If people re offend its because the penalties are not strict enough. No amount of money wasted getting liberals to ask them to be nice people will change that.
    In the 16th century how many people hung for stealing sheep re offended ?

  • Comment number 66.

    Prison is all about being punished - so it is not meant to be a pleasant experience so lets get rid of Sky TV and all that.

    For the liberal PC lot out there lets get one thing straight, prisoner human rights are forfeited once you are found guilty.

    Firstly, bring back the death penalty that will reduce the prison population and secondly make them work if necessary in chain gangs - cutting grass repairing our roads etc. Those who do not want to work then fine you don't get fed that day.

  • Comment number 67.

    The standard punishment for breaking the law is simply the removal of liberty. That punishment is not effective. Prison should be a place where freedom is restricted and where prisoners are forced to undertake heavy pointless manual labour. People should leave prison frightened to return. When that happens, you'll see reoffending rates drop like a stone.

  • Comment number 68.

    ++"Both the prisoners and the public need to know that when a judge sentences a prisoner to 10 years in prison, that is the minimum they will spend behind bars." - sorry, that's incorrect. It actually means they will serve 5 years. I think most of the public are unaware of that.++

    Well if they are unaware that the announced sentence is the maximum that will be served in prison in the event of bad behaviour they either are not interested in public affairs or have had there head down a hole for a century. It was ever thus and one cannot assume that 10 years awarded equates with 5 years served = it is not as simple as that. I am no longer a practitioner and not up to date with the details but it depends on the length, the other orders of the court and always the response of the sentenced person in Custody.

    Sadly what the public is probably not aware of is that now only around half of the probation service have received full professional training many prisoners subject to post release supervision will have very limited contact with such a trained and experienced person.

  • Comment number 69.

    I think it is vital that no time is wasted during a prison sentence, particularly if it is relatively short, in preparing a prisoner to enter employment when they leave.
    I believe that there is a huge problem with literacy and numeracy skills and that levels of learning disabilites such as dyslexia, ADHD are high in the prison population. Why not start addressing these issues in prison. Surely it is more cost effective than someone being caught in a spiral of continual reoffending.
    Why not introduce mandatory Work Preparation courses, where they cover topics such as completing CVs, dealing with interviews and in particular how to disclose their prison sentences to potential employers.
    What is unacceptable, in my opinion, is for Prisoners to be locked up for up to twelve hours during daytime hours not doing anything constructive with their time.

  • Comment number 70.

    Most prisoners live in better conditions than many of our elderly and war heroes. That says it all.

  • Comment number 71.

    As I understand it a lot of the people in jail for minor offences actually have committed multiple offences. What we need to do is punish anti social behaviour much earlier than we currently do, by way of community service orders etc. If we acted more quickly when someone commits a first offence there would be more possibility of turning the individual away from a life of crime.
    Prison will not help and should be used as a last resort, as a criminal record disadvantages the individual, they find it much harder to get a job for example. It also brings them into contact with other criminals which surely can not help.

  • Comment number 72.

    1) Increased length of sentence; it seems those serving less than 12 months are the problem.

    2) make them serve the sentence they were given in court, stop this only serving a half or a third of.

    3) Most importantly, actually make prison a punishment where people are really afraid to go. that would mean no mobiles, sky TV, pool tables, internet etc etc. some of these privileges could be earned with time and good behaviour, but the main emphasis should be on punishment.

  • Comment number 73.

    Many of the offenders today shone out like sparklers when they started school or went to nursery. A Reception or Nursery teaching can often spot the tearaways and trouble makers from the beginning. Doesn't it make sense to intervene early and try and rehabilitate at an early age? Troublesome kids often lack decent parenting. Many prisoners are former young offenders and truants and often illiterate. When they are released from prison they have no skills and re-offend. Prevention is better than cure.

  • Comment number 74.

    RE: .41
    "Prisons do not have enough time or resources to reform prisoners so we need to change the policy that says good behaviour will lead to early release to saying bad behaviour in prison will lead to sentences being extended."

    That sounds like an excellent idea to me. Of course the downside is that it would have to be attended by a whole heap of process. Bad behaviour would have to be graded somehow (minor, medium, severe) and the sentencing judge would have to set a "bad behaviour tarrif", stating a percentage of sentence extension for each instance of bad behaviour in prison at each level. But, it could work, yes.

    Re: Some of the other comments by other contributors here...
    I've never been inside a prison so I have no idea if all this "holiday camp" talk is just over stated tabloid garbage to pander to the "lock 'em up and birch 'em" brigade, or if the average prison really is like that?

    To me, even if a prison had exactly the same stuff as I have at home (TV computer, games, books etc), the very fact that I could not do what I wanted, when I wanted, and being forced to be at close quarters with other people 24x7 would be punishment enough. However, I realise that the prison system's "frequent flyers" get used to these things and they stop being a deterrent.

    Is there anyone who has ACTUALLY served a recent sentence in prison and who is prepared comment here on the statement "our prisons are like a luxury hotel"? Thanks in advance if there is..

    Alan T

  • Comment number 75.

    Crime and punishment another PC Left Failure.

  • Comment number 76.

    I think were all agreed that criminals tend to be persistant offenders (or they just havent been caught again yet)

    We need to draw a line under the present system and start a new one.

    First offence with violence or theft 6 months in prison

    Second offence 2 years

    Third offence life.

    None of this rubbish that seen on reality cop programs "ooh is it you again mate, arrersted you 10 million times this year havent I ?"

    We need to stop crime at an early stage and keep these antisocial animals out of our "free society"

    Maybe on realease they live in a hostel next to their defence team?

    p.s. Rapists, child molestors and murderers Life in prison full stop.

  • Comment number 77.

    How about making prisons a punishment rather that a detention area? Hard labour. Very basic meals. Long periods of councilling and solitiude. I'd also recommend a perpetual loop of Russ Abbott's greatest hits being played and a permanent loop of every episode of "Last of the Summer Wine" to satisfy any potential musical/televisual requirements. They won't want to go back in a hurry after that.

    Better still, implement Joe Arpaio's changes to jail operations. They included:

    - Banning inmates from possessing "sexually explicit material"

    - Instituted an in-house radio station he calls KJOE. Arpaio's radio station broadcasts classical music, opera, Frank Sinatra hits, patriotic music and educational programming.

    - “Jail Cam”, a 24-hour Internet webcast of images from cameras in the Madison Street Jail, a facility which processed and housed pretrial detainees. The goals of the broadcasts were the deterrence of future crime and improved public scrutiny of jail procedures.

    - Arpaio expanded the chain gang concept by instituting female volunteer chain gangs.[27] Female inmates work seven hours a day (7 a.m. to 2 p.m.), six days a week. No sexism there!

    - Serve food and limited meals twice daily

  • Comment number 78.

    Please bear in mind that well over half of the 80k in Uk prisons right now,should not be there at all.

    Many are mentally ill, so they should be treated, not made worse.
    Many have committed the most petty crimes like not paying fines, think you get fined £500 and dont pay, then get sent to jail which costs another few thousand, barmy.

    Put these yob offenders on chain gangs.

    Make the system pay its way, the only people who have to be in clink are those who are danger to the public.

  • Comment number 79.

    I think that we need to nip the problem in the bud. Most criminals start at an early age so how about the Bad Lads Army style of training for a first offence. It will not solve the whole problem but I bet it would go a long way to it.

  • Comment number 80.

    Short term prison sentences should be replaced by ENFORCED community work coupled with ENFORCED restorative justice schemes where the offender is made to face his victims and listen to how his crime has affected them. Career criminals offend time and time again because they are never made to face up to the consequences of their crime - either to them or to others.

    Change this and you cut crime.

  • Comment number 81.

    In reply to 19, what do you suggest? but if thats what it takes to stop this crime wave so be it. or would you like to put it to a votes by all those who have been offended against, I noted you like all other do gooders have not mentioned those who have suffered by their hands, lets hope that you and your family never will.

  • Comment number 82.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 83.

    Perhaps a logical approach might help? Legalising drugs would reduce crime massively as well as cutting off funds for terrorists. Longer sentences for more serious crimes, lengthy community service for lesser offences. I would agree with those suggesting removing tv etc from prisons but would stop short of putting a bible or any other religious book in cells.. very few convicts are atheists - for the rest religion clearly hasn't done them any good.

  • Comment number 84.

    'Not given them appropriate assistance' - YOU ARE IN PRISON, you made your bed so sleep in it!!

    If I was in charge you would have bread and water, at least 8 prisoners per cell, no TV, no heating, make sure they know why they are in there and so they don't return.

    Come on Britain, get into the real world and stop pussy-footing about.

  • Comment number 85.

    Surely giving a sentence that fits the crime and then keeping the offender in jail for that time (more time for bad behaviour) would cut reoffending hugely. Similarly, making jail cheaper and less pleasant, whilst still civilised, would also be a good move. I would like to lock people up properly, much cheaper, and protect society in that way. By all means give them treatment as well. Repeat offenders could be forced to do their new full sentence plus any previous sentences for similar/same crimes to make each new sentence so draconian they will not risk reoffending.
    BTW, reoffending rates only refer to those the police can be bothered to prosecute, not the vastly greater number of crimes committed by reoffending.
    Am I alone in thinking the police are only really bothered to prosecute soft targets to keep their stats up and collect fines/taxes(like minor driving offences) and very serious crimes like murder, and that everything inbetween is not important to them. Perhaps it's time to bring back the police force, doing some policing for the people they serve and not their whitehall masters who are so out of touch.

  • Comment number 86.

    Leading educational alumni such as Dr Anthony Seldon, Timothy and Angela Devline, The Blookingfield Learning Centre at Guys Hospital etc. have been highlighting for decades the fact that good education is the key to preventing crime. Alongside distinguishing between criminal activity and mental health responses.
    85% of all prisoners have a learning difficulty of some form or other. Earlier intervention to prevent child neglect and cruelty is paramount in preventing mental health issues.

    If half the amount of money spent on incarcertaing petty crime offences was spent on independent standard education, smaller classes etc. then one would expect to half the crime ratio. It costs between £3,000 and £5,000 per week to put an adolescent in a high risk unit....PER WEEK education and therapy at a top school would be around £18k per year!!!! Education, education, education.

  • Comment number 87.

    A recently retired prison officer told me last year the core problem of our prisons is starkly simple. Approximately 60,000 of the 80,000 inmates shouldn't be there. They have various mental health problems and are the 'refuse' from the so called care in the community strategy which has been a total failure. Unless their basic mental health problems are properly dealt with they will go on re-offending. It's not a crime:punishment issue but an ongoing health care problem. The remaining 20,000 are hard core prisoners who live their criminal lives in & out of prison and present little real chance of ever reforming or seeking redemption. Many are vile beyond belief with no sense of common decency and addicted to both violence & drugs. They present an ongoing challenge & unacceptable cost ( in every sense of the word) to society. The retired PO thought they should be despatched with ( either executed or exiled to a barren island) for the longer term public good. I related this conversation to another law enforcement employee who thought the retired PO was largely right. However, he believed the 60,000 figure a little high & the 20,000 too low. He believed the split to be closer to 50:50.

  • Comment number 88.

    Here we go again , the first mistake is to associate short sentences with minor crime , it is increasingly the case that you can commit a serious crime such as ABH,Burglary (yes they are serious) and still recieve a sentence of less than 12 months and also a non custodial sentence of community service , what you should be looking at, is does the crime committed warrant locking the offender away to protect the public at large. Certain pressure groups are insistant that the only way forward is to treat all prisoners with a soft approach , the prison system is full of hangers on taking money for such schemes as Offender Behaviour Programmes which have never proved their effectiveness in stopping people commit crime such as violence and drug related crime.I believe that Prisons are a blunt instrument that work by keeping the criminals away from us, they should be used to deter and punish offendors that carry out violent and serious crime that affect the publics safety and property.
    Community service has it's part to play in the justice system but please do not confuse short sentences with minor crime, rehabilitation is expensive and a system that unfortunately has been proven to be very uneffective in stopping re-offending, and in the vast majority of cases a waste of taxpayers money.

  • Comment number 89.

    How can we reduce reoffending?

    Simple - do not let them get back into The Palace of Westminster!!

    Or simply lock the doors once they get in!

    Either method is an effective means of reducing re-offending!

    By the way, 'reoffending' is not the correct use of English language BBC!

  • Comment number 90.

    If prison terms aren't working then it's obvious that they're not enough of a deterrent. Personally I think that sending young offenders to some sort of military academy where they're forced to be physically and mentally tested throughout a long day and sleep in very basic conditions at night would be a far more useful deterrent than a couple of months in the criminal academy that most jails have turned into. Coming out of a military academy with a clean mind and body, as well as a clear plan for where to go next (job training), would give a purpose to so many who've spent a large part of their youth just drifting around. It's not going to help hardened criminals, but a lot of minor crimes are committed by youths who are simply lost and lacking guidance and it would do our society good to save them before they graduate to more serious crimes.

  • Comment number 91.

    Reoffending can be cut if sentences are longer, and prison is so unpleasant an experience that they will avoid returning. There should be no early release, prisoners should be released after their sentence only if they are deemed fit to return to society and to abide by the law. If they fail to do this then they must be returned to prison until they can. Prison should be a regime of work and discipline with rewards such as newspapers television and leisure given only as a reward for endeavour and behaviour. The cost of this can be redeemed by the removal of the overpaid army of "do gooders" attempting and failing in rehabilitation schemes.

  • Comment number 92.

    This is one area the Conservatives have yet to say the budget will not be reduced. They seem to want more people in prison for every crime under the sun, yet it will surely cost more money to build and staff more prisons.
    We need to completely re-evaluate what prisons are for.
    We should find alternative and more effective punishments as prsions in my opinion, should only be for those who are a danger to society and not for such crimes as non-payment of Council Tax or for those who fail to send their children to school. Those people are not a danger to you and me, yet they cost the taxpayer huge sums in keeping them in prison.

  • Comment number 93.

    Make prisons somewhere to be feared. Bring back Borstals. Remove televisions and computer games from cells. Prison should be a punishment and not just a free hotel.

  • Comment number 94.

    This report confirms what I have suspected for years, that prison doesn't work for many offenders. Given the vast amounts of taxpayers money that is spent on keeping low-level prisoners incarcerated, I wonder if alternative programmes could be tried.

    Of course, serious criminals need to be kept of the streets for public safety reasons, but alternatives should be investigated.

  • Comment number 95.

    Isolation in prison might be one way to stop them wishing to reoffend, they mix with criminals of all types and learn new way's to commit crime.
    We also need to look at how sentencing is given by the courts to offenders, hardly a day goes by when someone who has committed a truly horrific crime get away with a pat on the head, while not paying a TV licence could see you locked up!
    Get the balance right then we just might see a change in offending patterns.

  • Comment number 96.

    I agree very much with Message 2. Most of these short term prisoners have already been subject to a wide range of non-custodial options, which has not diverted them from criminality, before being sentenced to imprisonment. What hope is there that new community punishments will have any effect. Perhaps for young offenders a sentence of imprisonment earlier and for longer might be more effective.

  • Comment number 97.

    This country has mountains of rubbish accumulating in its streets,and other communtity areas.Thousands of potholes,caused by the recent bad weather,the list is endless.Yet we have thousands of prisioners sitting on there backsides 24hrs a day,is there any one in this country who can put two and two together.

  • Comment number 98.

    Once again we're seeing how New Labour's "tough on crime, tough on the causes of crime" statements embarrassingly fail.

    Make prisoners do some useful work in the community - clearing dog dirt off pavements, cleaning sewers, cleaning graffiti off walls, etc. Make the work as hard and as unpleasant as possible and make them work for food. No work, no food.

    We'll soon see reoffending rates drop to zero.

    Prisoners should not have a single penny of taxpayer's money spent on them. They should work in the community to survive.

  • Comment number 99.

    I have just read 36, who makes a very good point, but we are not all hung them and flog them, we are people who want to live our lives without the fear of crime, and are looking to the Government agencies to do just that.
    so I take your point about First offenders, but we are talking about REPEAT offenders, they had the warning shot
    and most would have had lots of chances in Magistrates Courts before being sent down, Jail is that last option both Magistrates and Judges use, its not something they do without just course.
    I have taken the trouble to visit Courts and see how they work, and thats open to anyone, sadly the public seats are mostly empty, but if they did so a better understanding of how things work would help.
    Magistrates i know find it hard to keep up with the changing legislation coming in on a weekly basis.
    and then heres the Sentencing Guidelines, designed to keep criminals out of prison.the think about that is that they should ONLY BE GUIDELINES AS A LORD LORD STATED, but Magistrates are fooled into thinking they MUST follow them. the on top of all that theres the stealth Tax, oh yes its found its way into courts too, £15 added to every fine.
    But the part that I cannot understand is this, for each custodial sentence .lets say 4 weeks, the Magistrates will have to say you will only serve half that time, IE two weeks, what nonsense. crime figures are also not correct the Police and even some council officers can do on the spot fines and they unlike the past are no longer taken into account. So visit you local Magistrates Court and see how it works, you will be surprised but it will be well wotrh it.

  • Comment number 100.

    ++82. At 09:25am on 10 Mar 2010, you wrote:

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the House Rules++

    Presumably it was the PDF Attachment.

    Sorry, I wanted readers to see a report of a failing system. Medway High Security Children's, prison after one year.

    It is on this page here,

    with title "Occasional Paper Evaluation of Medway Secure Training Centre"

    I hope that is within the house rules.


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