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Revolving Doors Agency responds to Justice Secretary’s comments on short sentences

On Wednesday the Justice Secretary told the Justice Select Committee that “work on short-term sentences is not going to be put away in a box and forgotten" and confirmed his view that the "evidence points to the ineffectiveness" of these sentences.  However, Mr Buckland went on to say his position was not to abolish short sentences, but rather to improve the range of choice that judges have of robust community options. Citing his experience as a Recorder, the Justice Secretary said that whilst custody should be a last resort in current legislation, judges needed the option, for example to deal with repeat offending.

Revolving Doors’ campaign Short-sighted has shown that despite current expectation that custody should be used a last resort, this is not what happens in practice.  Indeed, almost half of all people sent to prison are sent there for less than 6 months.  One in four women - and one in six men - are imprisoned for less than a month. Current legislation is not effective and short prison sentences are used far too often.   

There is now a broad consensus that short sentences cause disruption, further chaos and drive offending. 70% of MPs would support a presumption against short sentences for non-violent offences that requires the court to record publicly the reasons for the use of custody.

It is notable that good community options (instead of a few weeks in prison) are particularly effective for people involved in repeat offending, such as theft. This is because we know this is driven by multiple problems such as drug addiction, homelessness or mental ill-health.