Criminology, probation and stuff

Some musings on criminology with a focus on probation

Thousands of criminals spared prison go on to offend again

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This article in the Telegraph is interesting. Apparently a third of probationers are having their orders revoked due to breach or committal of another offence. I’m not really surprised. I wonder what is happening to them- are they being given custodial sentences instead or are they being given longer/extended community orders on their reappearance in court? That would be considerably more interesting. I would also like this to be contextualised somehow with regards to prison- how well adjusted are people who are released from prison compared to those who have the orders revoked/successfully complete? What are the reconviction rates for these groups of people?

The telegraph says: 33 per cent of the 168,000 criminals put on the programmes had their orders terminated early for “negative” reasons. It also says: The figures show the proportion of community orders which run their full course has plummeted, from more than seven out of 10 when Labour came to power to less than half. I don’t get it- how can one third be ended for negative reasons but less than half run their full course. I seriously hope the Telegraph hasn’t included orders revoked for good behaviour in their assessment of how many are ended ‘early’ and thereby implying that all orders revoked early are revoked due to misbehaviour?

What is more important/interesting is knowing what people do on these orders why so many are in breach. Is it because they never get to see their Probation Officer so never actually get to do anything productive? Or is it because the only intervention they do actually receive is only ever some homogeneous groupwork. Or maybe its because the only requirement they have been given is Unpaid Work- a punishment in its own right with not much chance of any form of any intervention being possible. I would guess the Telegraph wouldn’t attribute high breach rates to a high level of Unpaid Work. The Telegraph seems all in favour of toughening up the community order to stop people from breaching.

Finally, the article contains quotes from the two shadow justice ministers. The Tory one says: Despite Jack Straw’s latest initiative to put more offenders in coloured bibs, the breach rate for the new community order is actually higher than the old one. Why on earth is Mr Herbert conflating the orange vest thing with high breach rates? Vests were introduced less than a month ago- does he really think they have anything to do with how many people have been breached over the last year?

David Howarth (who happens to be my MP), on the other hand, is worth quoting at length:

A third of community sentences are being terminated early and all ministers can come up with are cheap gimmicks like fluorescent tabards for offenders. Endless reorganisations and budget cuts have left the probation service severely overstretched. As a result, many community sentences start later and staff find it increasingly difficult to keep up. Only by improving and properly funding non-custodial sentences can we ensure that more are completed and halt the explosion in the prison population. The higher breach among suspended sentence orders shows that the threat of prison is not working.

I’m not convinced that this is the place for discussion about orange vests but otherwise I completely agree with Mr Howarth. I particularly his views on the ineffectiveness of deterrence theories.


Written by criminologyandstuff

December 21, 2008 at 4:20 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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