Copy the Scots on community sentences, policymakers told

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Nov 06, 2017
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Scottish courts operate a presumption against prison sentences of three months or less

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Policies that have cut reoffending rates to an 18-year low in Scotland should be brought in south of the border, a think tank has urged (Lynsey Bews writes).

A report by the Centre for Justice Innovation found that changes in policy in Scotland had led to an 18 per cent rise in community sentences over the past decade.

The think tank’s research found that such sentences had consistently reduced reoffending.

However, their use in England and Wales has declined by 24 per cent in the past ten years, with much of the drop occurring since 2011.

Scottish courts operate a presumption against prison sentences of three months or less, with Holyrood intending to extend the policy to sentences of up 12 months.

The centre’s report argues that the “introduction of the community payback order and the presumption against short three-month prison sentences … seem likely to explain at least some of the rise in the use of community sentences in Scotland.

“It remains unclear what has caused community sentences in England and Wales to decline so much since 2011.”

The report said “the evidence suggests that community sentences are more effective and better value for money than short prison sentences” but “the decline in their use in England and Wales over the last ten years is concerning, especially when they have continued to reduce reoffending over the same period.

“For those of us who want to reverse that trend, looking across the border to Scotland would be a good start for English and Welsh policymakers and practitioners.”

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