My right honourable friend the Minister of State (David Hanson) has made the following Written Ministerial Statement.
The Government have always been clear that prison is and will remain the place for violent and dangerous offenders, whilst there are many less serious offenders for whom community punishments can be more effective penalties than short prison sentences. Such offenders can be required to do unpaid work of real benefit, and provide some payback to the communities they have wronged. They can be subject to tagging, curfews and intensive supervision where appropriate and receive targeted interventions to tackle any drug, alcohol, mental health and offending behaviour requirements. Reoffending rates for offenders subject to community punishments are lower than those for short-sentenced prisoners. Community punishments can be more cost-effective and can offer more opportunities for rehabilitation than short-term sentences, dealing with the offence and the causes of offending behaviour. We have therefore made very significant investment in probation—a 67 per cent real terms increase since 1997, and well over six million of hours of unpaid community payback done by offenders in 2006.
Recently, however there has been an increase in numbers of offenders sentenced to short periods of custody, something which inevitably created pressure on the prison service. I can therefore today announce that the Government are allocating further funds, including £40 million to probation in 2008-09, so that sentencers can be confident that the resources are in place to deliver effective community punishments.
The funds will be allocated in support of a specific delivery plan by probation areas. We will monitor the impact of these resources closely to ensure that they are spent in support of those sentenced to community orders rather than short prison sentences.