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Dr. Julie Trebilcock Imperial College London No winners: The reality of short prison sentences Image by Andy Aitchison Photography.

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Presentation on theme: "Dr. Julie Trebilcock Imperial College London No winners: The reality of short prison sentences Image by Andy Aitchison Photography."— Presentation transcript:

1 Dr. Julie Trebilcock Imperial College London No winners: The reality of short prison sentences Image by Andy Aitchison Photography

2 Over 60,000 adult prisoners given short sentence (12 months and under) every year Approx 9% of prison pop. on any day but 65% of all admissions and releases each year Highest reoffending rate amongst adult prisoners Often have greater needs in regards to the seven NOMS reducing reoffending pathways Oct motion passed by the Prison Governors Association (PGA) to abolish short prison sentences Dec Ministry of Justice Green Paper - Breaking the cycle: effective punishment, rehabilitation and sentencing of offenders Context

3 Objectives & Method Objectives: What are the day-to-day experiences and views of: short sentence male prisoners? prison staff working with short sentence prisoners? PGA members and other key stakeholders? Method: Three prisons in one NOMS region 44 interviews with short sentence prisoners 25 interviews with prison staff Survey of PGA members (223 respondents) Survey of Howard League members and other key stakeholders (559 respondents)

4 Although diverse population, two distinct types: first timers and revolving door prisoners First time prisoners were unanimous this is first and last time in prison Revolving door prisoners often considered reoffending and return to prison to be inevitable Staff often made clear distinction between first timers and revolving door prisoners: First timers viewed with sympathy and unlikely to reoffend – “wrong place at the wrong time” Revolving door prisoners viewed as having complex needs and likely to reoffend. Also described as “not being bothered by short sentences” First timers and revolving door prisoners

5 Many reported spending long periods of time in cell. Boredom was a common complaint Some reported that they wanted to complete courses or work but that they were not available Others saw little point in applying for courses or work Staff frustrated that: short sentences are large administrative burden little they can do within the short timeframe assisting short sentence prisoners does not contribute to KPIs Prisoners frustrated that they leave prison ‘just the same’. See their return to prison as inevitable The day to day reality

6 Twelve weeks and I’m out … I get out and I’m … still thinking as I did before I come in. As much as I want to change I probably won’t though because it’s all I know … It’s just a waste … it’s just a revolving door backwards and forwards and I don’t get nothing out of it … I’m going to be homeless again, I’m going to be on the dole and chances are I’m going to slip back into the old ways again because there’s f**k all else Jack, 28, shoplifting, 3 month sentence Going out just the same

7 Many prisoners expressed frustration that their release meant ‘having to start again’ Those who had lost their jobs or housing as a result of coming to prison were anxious about replacing them Unanimous negative view about hostels Prisoners often not very aware of services available to them in the community Staff unanimous that more work needs to be done to ‘join-up’ services in community and prison – “we can’t do it on our own” Looking to the outside

8 Some regarded comm sentences to be more of a punishment and/or more effective in terms of addressing needs / risk of reoffending However, the majority expressed a preference for a short prison sentence over a community sentence Many regarded comm sentences to be ‘tiring, boring and pointless’ Prison seen as easier to complete. Don’t have to attend appointments / meet probation. Just have to ‘get head down’ until fixed release date Prison seen as an opportunity for ‘time-out’, shelter, improve health and/or to come off drugs NB Views about prison and comm sentences

9 I wish they’d sent me to jail the first time then I wouldn’t be here now... I’d have been clean then... giving me a community order, you know, go and do this, this, and this. I was still out there. I still had drugs. It doesn’t fix the problem (Gavin, 29, breach of comm service order (for theft), 10 month sentence ) I put myself in jail, for the simple reason that I need to get my head sorted out (Mark, 30, breach of sex offenders register, 6 month sentence) Views about prison and comm sentences

10 Short prison sentences currently offer no winners Prisoners are disillusioned because they are not being equipped with the necessary support and interventions to help break the cycle of reoffending - they ‘come out the same’ and have to ‘start again’ Staff are disillusioned because they lack sufficient time and resources to address prisoner needs or their likelihood of reoffending And communities are having to cope with the frustration and disillusionment that is generated by the high reoffending rate of this population Concluding thoughts


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