Prison sentences of six months or less could be scrapped to ease the prisons crisis, the prisons minister said over the weekend. In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, Rory Stewart said that ‘very short’ jail terms were ‘long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you’.
Stewart, who previously told the BBC that he would resign if he failed to contain worsening violence in 10 of the worst prisons in England, flagged up research showing that criminals given short jail terms were more likely to re-offend than those given community sentences. ‘You bring somebody in for three or four weeks, they lose their house, their job, their family, their reputation. They come (into prison), they meet a lot of interesting characters (to put it politely) and then you whap them on to the streets again,’ he told the Telegraph magazine. ‘The public are safer if we have a good community sentence… and it will relieve a lot of pressure on prisons.’
According to a parliamentary response from Stewart to a question by shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon last month, more than half of the 86,275 offenders sentenced to immediate last year were handed sentences of six months or less.