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Imprisonment of Offenders

Volume 656: debated on Tuesday 12 March 2019

Under this Government, the most serious offenders are more likely to go to prison and for longer, helping to protect the public and keep communities safe. Prison will be the right place for some offenders, but equally there is evidence that it does not work in rehabilitating others. I want to move the debate on from the old false choice between soft justice versus hard justice, and instead ensure we are focused on delivering smart justice. We need to think more imaginatively about different and more modern forms of punishment in the community.

I support the broad thrust of ensuring that sentences work, particularly for female offenders. Does the Secretary of State agree that at the same time we should look at early release and whether it could be recalibrated to improve prison discipline?

Incentives in the prison system are important to achieving good behaviour. Early release does help offenders to successfully make the transition from custody to living crime-free lives in the community. An additional early release scheme for certain offenders, home detention curfew, further helps to manage that transition and reduce future offending.

The hon. Gentleman’s question has been grouped. His opportunity is here. His moment is now. Let us hear the sonorous tones of the hon. Gentleman.

I am very grateful, Mr Speaker.

I understand the UK Government are looking at the effectiveness of short-term custodial sentences to reduce reoffending. I invite Ministers to look at the experience in Scotland, where short-term sentences have already been abolished yet reoffending rates remain stubbornly high. I therefore urge Ministers to look more closely at whether rehabilitation programmes in prison are working effectively, even those for prisoners on short-term sentences.

In conjunction with reforming short sentences, it is important that we have confidence in the delivery of community orders. We have been clear that in England and Wales probation services need to improve—we have already discussed that—but the two have to run together: reform of short sentences and adequate community alternatives.

What are the Government doing to ensure tougher sentences for those who are found guilty of violent crimes?

Under this Government, over the past nine years, sentences for violent crime have gone up. For knife crime in particular, the chances of a custodial sentence have increased and the length of the custodial sentence has increased.