New MoJ research
We all know that people sentenced to community orders have lower reoffending rates than those given short prison sentences.
But what sorts of offenders do better on community orders or worse on short prison sentences? How do community orders and suspended sentences compare?
This is the sort of question that a new (17 May 2018) analytical summary from the MoJ sets out to answer. Joseph Hillier and Aidan Mews analysed a series of datasets from 2008-2011 on adult offenders released from custodial sentences of under 12 months or who started a court order in those four years. It is important to remember that people sentenced to short periods of custody at this time received no supervision on release.
The report examines whether impact on reoffending differs according to offenders’ age, ethnicity, gender, and mental health. It also provides further analysis on the reoffending impact of suspended sentence orders compared with similar cases where community orders were given, whether the impacts vary according to the number of previous offences, and the impacts of mental health and alcohol treatment requirements. They key findings were:
- Reductions in reoffending were associated with the use of court orders as compared with short-term custody. These effects:
- Were greater for people with larger numbers of previous offences. For people with no previous offences, there was no statistically significant difference between the reoffending associated with short-term custody and that associated with court orders.
- Differed according to an offender’s age group, after controlling for the number of previous offences. The use of court orders was associated with relatively more benefit for those aged 18–20 and those over 50, and less benefit for those aged 21–29.
- Differed according to identification of mental health issues, after controlling for the number of previous offences. The use of court orders was associated with more benefit for offenders with ‘significant’ psychiatric problems and those with current or pending psychiatric treatment.
- Were similar across ethnic groups and for both males and females, after controlling for the number of previous offences.
- For those with identified mental health issues, mental health treatment requirements attached to court orders were associated with significant reductions in reoffending where they were used, compared with similar cases where they were not. The reoffending rate was around 3.5 percentage points lower over a one-year follow-up period.
- For those with identified alcohol use issues, alcohol treatment requirements were associated with similar or slightly lower reoffending where they were used compared with similar cases where they were not.
- Suspended sentence orders were associated with a reduced rate of reoffending (over a one year follow-up period) of around 4 percentage points compared with similar cases where community orders were given, with a smaller impact over longer follow-up periods. Suspended sentence orders were associated with more benefit in reducing reoffending as age increased and less benefit as the number of previous offences increased.