The Prison Governors Association (PGA) has today called on the government to end its £4bn prison building programme, and instead focus on dealing with short-term prisoners through cheaper and more effective community punishments outside jail.
Probation officers have backed the calls of the PGA, with new research published today showing a reoffending rate of more than 74% for short-term prisoners (up to six months.)
"The reconviction rates would be much lower at 34% on programmes compared with 74% on short-term prison sentences." - Harry Fletcher, Assistant General Secretary, Napo
The calls come as the jail population in England and Wales has just reached a record 85,000 inmates. Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke has also questioned the continued increase in prison numbers and has set up a review of sentencing policy, which is will report in October.
Low-risk offenders with short prison sentences can be more effectively dealt with by the probation service, according to Eoin McLennan-Murray, president of the PGA; this would allow prisons to concentrate on rehabilitating serious and serial offenders:
"At this time, when spending cuts across the criminal justice system are necessary, money should be targeted effectively. Providing funds to build additional prisons is not the way forward."
Short prison sentences serve no purpose and should be scrapped, according to the Howard League and the probation officers' union, Napo. Frances Crook, director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said short custodial sentences are "a costly and wasteful response to complex human problems that needed solving".
"Upon arrival, prisoners on short sentences are handed their induction papers along with their release forms. Nothing constructive can happen when a prisoner lies on a squalid bunk bed for three weeks."