Serial offenders who breach community punishments could be instantly sent to jail for a day in a move that mirrors a highly successful US approach to reoffending, according to a new Centre for Social Justice (CSJ) report.
Swift justice for prolific offenders would restore much-needed credibility to community punishments and cut reoffending, the publication argues.
The CSJ found that many offenders who breach sentences being served in the community consider these punishments to be a ‘laughing stock’.
The number of people given a sentence in the community who had at least 15 previous convictions or cautions has increased by 76 per cent from 15,709 in 2003/4 to 27,632 in 2013, the study highlights.
Around a third of people given a sentence in the community are caught reoffending within a year and in 2012/13 some 17,066 offenders had their sentence scrapped because they did not comply with it.
The CSJ offers a host of recommendations in Sentences in the Community, including a move that would see serial offenders who breach their conditions sent to jail for a short period of time before continuing with the original order.
This would be similar to the ‘Swift and Certain’ (SAC) programmes that are being used in around 20 states across America and which are dramatically reducing breach rates and reoffending.
The report received widespread media coverage. Listen to the CSJ on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme, BBC Breakfast and BBC 5 Live Breakfast. The story was also covered by The Times, Daily Mail, Daily Telegraph and The Sun.
The CSJ criticised the fact that Magistrates’ courts often lack basic information – such as whether or not those they sentenced complied with the sentence or reoffended. The report recommends that new probation providers should inform Magistrates of the outcomes of sentences in the community so that they can develop a greater awareness of which interventions are effective.
Researchers added that families can play a crucial role in helping an offender leave crime behind and called for courts to do more to include families in rehabilitation efforts.
For drug users the CSJ has also urged that treatment providers introduce ‘randomised’ tests instead of ‘scheduled’ tests, ensuring that offenders cannot ‘game’ the system and have the best chance of getting effective support.