There’s a fair number of proposals in the Government’s announcement today so let’s take them one at a time.
Before that though I should point out that the PM’s surprise at falling levels of recorded crime and rising prison populations is easily explained. Most recorded crime is minor and does not attract prison. Violent crimes are the ones which tend to get people into prison, and they have been increasing steadily since she became PM.
Establish a Sentencing Council – 6/10
On balance it is probably a good thing to have the Government more directly involved in sentencing guidelines because then they can’t blame sentences just on Judges. The negative is it may politicise it more.
Increase parole eligibility from 1/3 to 2/3 of a sentence – 8/10
I am being generous here as it was Labour in 2002 which made 1/3 sentence possible for many crimes. And it should be greater than 2/3 – say 90% or so.
The official estimate is the average time served will go from 62% to 80%.
Reduce the length of sentence by 25% – 2/10
No, no no. This means the very worst criminals who misbehave in prison and get no parole will be getting out 25% earlier. Mad.
Home detention will be established as a sentence in its own right – 6/10
Seems sensible, but careful it remains restricted to those not posing a risk.
New sentences of Electronically-Monitored Curfew. and Intensive Supervision – 6/10
Again looks sensible. However final judgement will depend on how it is used and applied. The worst case is a Government tight for money uses it Sentencing Commission to set guidelines which has convicts being given curfew instead of prison, despite the risk to the community.
Two new drug and alcohol treatment units in prisons – 8/10
Only qualification is how effective are the current units?
Overall the big negative is cutting sentences by 25%. This will see the very worst offenders out earlier. The back-down on parole is welcome, but has taken far too long.
The other stuff is all potentially beneficial, but it will depend on the implementation. And Corrections Department hasn’t exactly been a model of perfection in recent times.