The impact of different sentences on reoffending
A new (29 January 2015) report in the MoJ analytical series: “The impact of short custodial sentences, community orders and suspended sentence orders on re-offending” makes for interesting reading.
The data are old, but the analysis has been extended to look in more detail about the impact of different requirements in community orders on reoffending and to examine the impact of different sentences over a long time period.
Short term prison doesn’t work
This report confirms previous findings that short term (less than 12 months) prison sentences just don’t work. Of course, this form of sentence ceased to exist from 1 February 2015 since when all offenders sentenced to short term custodial sentences are automatically subject to probation supervision on release.
The re-offending rate for those getting short prison sentences was three percentage points higher than similar offenders given a community sentence and seven percentage points higher than those given a suspended sentence order. In addition, short term custody was associated with up to 1 more re-offence per person on average than both community and suspended sentence orders.
Which requirements are most effective?
For me, potentially the most interesting part of the report is the section which examines which requirements of community orders had the most impact on reoffending rates. However, the researchers were not able to analyse the impact of specific requirements, mainly because so many community sentences have multiple conditions.
The researchers were able to conclude that:
- Supervision requirements were associated with reduced proven re-offending (both in terms of whether there is re-offending and the number of re-offences overall) when added to punitive elements (curfews and unpaid work).
- Activity requirements were associated with either a non-statistically significant impact on re-offending or increased re-offending (when used with unpaid work).
- Programme requirements were associated with reduced re-offending when added to unpaid work and supervision requirements, and when added to curfew and supervision on the frequency measure only, but otherwise the impacts were not statistically significant.
The main conclusion of this study appears to be that probation supervision is effective in reducing reoffending.
It will be fascinating to see if the new Community Rehabilitation Companies can reduce the reoffending rates of short term prisoners now that they have the first opportunity to provide supervision to this group.