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Russell Webster

Russell Webster

Criminal Justice & substance misuse expert and author of this blog.

Fewer criminals but more prisoners

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This latest set of MoJ statistics adds power to the recent argument made by Professor Sean McConville (With Lois Blom-Cooper) that if we really want prison reform, we have to sideline politicians and have a Royal Commission.

New MoJ Criminal Justice Statistics

The latest quarterly update of Criminal Justice Statistics published by the MoJ on 19 November covers the year up to March 2014.

The main findings are interesting and provide further evidence of the depressing fact that there is no correlation between the crime rate and the number of people in prison.

This may always have been the case but has become a disappointing fact of life since the 1997 general election when Labour promised to be “tough on crime” (and tough on the causes of crime). Ever since, the two main political parties (if we can still accurately characterise British politics as a straight Labour v Conservative battle) have sought to outdo each other to be the party that is toughest on crime.

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There are less criminals

A number of key facts show that the Criminal Justice System deals with fewer people every year (part of this decrease may be attributed to police under-recording crime.) The statistics show that:

  • the total number of individuals dealt with formally by the CJS in England and Wales has been declining since 2007
  • the use of out of court disposals has decreased in the last year by 13%, down to 318,500 in the latest 12 month period
  • in the latest 12 month period 1.41 million defendants were proceeded against, a 4% decrease compared to the previous year

This is not related to the conviction ratio which has remained relatively steady since year ending March 2009 -following on from an increase in the 5 preceding years.

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But more people are sent to prison for longer

The statistics also bear witness to the continued growth in the number of people sent to prison and the length of time they are sentenced to:

  • the custody rate for indictable offences (27%) is the highest in the decade and has increased in each of the last 3 years
  • the average custodial sentence length has increased over the last decade, particularly in the last year – up to 15.5 months in the latest 12 month period
  • the number and proportion of convicted offenders who have long criminal histories has increased over the last 10 years, whereas the number of new entrants to the criminal justice system has fallen.

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Conclusion

This latest set of MoJ statistics adds power to the recent argument made by Professor Sean McConville (With Lois Blom-Cooper) that if we really want prison reform, we have to sideline politicians and have a Royal Commission.

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All Probation Posts are sponsored by Unilink

With over 20 years’ experience in the criminal justice sector, Unilink is a world leader in probation and community corrections software applications, as well as prisoner self-service, prisoner/case management and prisoner communications. Unilink’s integrated suite of products provide a complete digital solution enabling efficient running of prisons and probation. Underpinned by biometrics it integrates seamlessly to deliver security, efficiency and value – while being proven to help rehabilitate prisoners.

One Response

  1. Vastly improved conviction rates for indictable offences has been achieved by using modern forensics. Especially for the most serious crimes, which skews average sentence lengths. This detection dynamic relates directly to the prison population. Therefore, statistical methods for demonstrating increased sentences need to be complemented with robust qualitative comparisons on sentencing.
    However, good science also supports the notion that incarceration is more harmful than helpful in reducing re-offending. Additionally, with ever improving detection, the prison population is likely to continue to rise with no change in sentencing – even if crime continues to fall.. But I wouldn’t argue with the need for a royal commission.

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