Category: News

Prison Sentences under Six Months Could Be Scrapped


Justice Secretary David Gauke has pledged that prison sentences shorter than six months will be abolished in England and Wales.

He promised to announce “firm” proposals this summer to abolish sentences of less than half a year, although this would exclude some convictions for violent and sexual offences, the Telegraph reported.

Gauke promised to go further than the reforms in Scotland in 2010, which introduced “presumption” against sentences of three months  but was keen to emphasise that the reforms would be accompanied by “robust” measures  to reduce re-offending and ensure the safety of the public.

The move is intended to reduce overcrowding in prisons and cut reoffending rates. It is the latest step in a programme of prison reform undertaken by Gauke since he replaced David Lidington as Justice Secretary in January 2018, and follows his recent announcement that probation services will be renationalised.

England and Wales have the second highest incarceration rate, and second largest prison population, of any EU nation, behind only Poland. The prison population in England and Wales has increased by 77% in the last thirty years, placing a huge strain on staff and resources.

According to  the latest statistics from the Prison Reform Trust, almost half of the 65,000 people sent to prison in 2017 were given a sentence of 6 months or less. 63% of  people with sentences of less than 12 months reoffended within a year of leaving prison, as opposed to 43% for the overall prison population in the same period.

Many in the prison sector believe that short sentences place greater pressure on an already overburdened prison system, yet do not allow sufficient time to change behaviour and address the causes of criminal activity. Short sentences, as opposed to no sentence at all or a period of community service or similar, seem to even have a detrimental effect, as prisoners are more likely to come into contact with criminal behaviour, as well as receiving a criminal record and thereby damaging their chances of getting into work or training once they come out. For more serious crimes, longer sentences give the opportunity to gain skills through education and training, affording a greater opportunity of successful reintegration into the community.

A study by the Prison Reform Trust found that prisoners with sentences of under a year had a reoffending rate seven percentage points higher than people who had committed similar offences and served a community sentence, suggesting that community sentences may be a more effective method of preventing reoffending. Community sentences also have additional benefits, such as allowing offenders to continue to fulfil their family duties, giving them the chance to contribute to society through work, and they come at a significantly lower cost to the taxpayer – one study suggested they cost 12 times less than prison sentences of the same length.

This recent announcement by the Justice Secretary therefore seems a positive one – we look forward to hearing more about the exact measures he plans to bring in in the coming weeks and months.



Sources and further reading:

Prison Reform Trust Summer 2018 factfile

Prison Reform Trust Autumn 2017 factfile

Probation Services to Be Renationalised


The probation sector in England and Wales is to be renationalised, justice secretary David Gauke has announced. The supervision of prisoners in the community was privatised just five years ago, in 2014, by then-justice secretary Chris Grayling, but his reforms have faced years of heavy criticism from politicians and prison staff.

The management of all probation services will be brought back under the supervision of the National Probation Service (NPS) by spring 2021, although the private sector will continue to provide training programmes and work placements.

There are approximately 250,000 people on probation in England and Wales at any one time. The term ‘probation’ applies to anyone who is serving a prison sentence but is not in prison. Probationers may be serving a community sentence, or have been released from prison under certain conditions. These conditions include doing unpaid work, attending certain classes and meetings, receiving treatment, or participating in education and training courses.

The years following Grayling’s reforms have seen a significant increase in reoffending rates among those on probation. The statistics are damning: in 2017-18, 627 probationers in England and Wales were charged with serious offences, a 21% increase on the 517 of the previous year.

In 2017, Chief Inspector of Probation Dame Glenys Stacey revealed that, under the privatised system, up to 40% of probationers were being supervised by a single phone call every six weeks rather than the previous face-to-face meetings. 

In response to Gauke’s statement, Stacey commented, “I am delighted at the secretary of state’s decision. Probation is a complex social service, and it has proved well-nigh impossible to reduce it to a set of contractual requirements.” She continued, “Today’s announcement puts the focus firmly on improving the quality of probation services. More than a quarter of a million people are under probation supervision each year, and high-quality probation services can make such a difference to them and to wider society as well.”

The new model will introduce 11 new probation regions in England and Wales run by the NPS. Each will have an “innovation partner”, either a private firm, charity or NGO, which will provide some rehabilitation services.

At Socrates Software, we work with a range of partners to provide rehabilitation services such as health care and wellbeing support, education and training courses, help with job applications, and much more. For probationers, our simple check-in service allows users to send their location and a photo to prison staff, rather than relying on phone calls or in-person checks, saving staff time and improving reliability. The Socrates 360 app is available to both prisoners and probationers, helping to ensure continuity of care and aid reintegration into the community.

Read more about the services offered by the Socrates 360 app here.


Sources and further reading: