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Shorter, not tougher, sentences

Friday, 11 March 2005

Alexander: More prisoners due to shorter, not tougher, sentences
Courts are sending more offenders to prison, but many are serving short sentences, according to figures obtained by United Future law and order spokesman Marc Alexander.

“Since 1994, the overall prison population has increased by 16 percent, from 7360 to 8540,” Mr Alexander said. “The Government’s line that more people are getting longer sentences is patently false. The biggest increase in sentences are in those under three years.”

Sentences from six months to 12 months have increased 48 percent from 1462 to 2169; those from one year to two years are up 96% (from 840 to 1646), and those from two to three years have increased by 87% (from 298 to 557).

“So what we have is a wave of shorter-term prisoners who do a few years or less, and who have been the biggest part in bulging the prison population. “And the reality is that because of their short sentences, they gain next to nothing from prison-based rehabilitation or skills programmes,” Mr Alexander said.

“This high rate of recidivism suggests that it is the number of prisoners making a return trip to jail after serving a short sentence, rather than longer sentences, that is driving up the prison population.”


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