You are here: Justice Secretary gets green light from MPs to curb short prison sentences

A poll[1]  commissioned by justice charity Revolving Doors Agency shows that 70% of MPs back the Justice Secretary’s plans to curb short sentences of less than 6 months.

The canvass of MP views shows that 70% are likely to support the introduction of a new presumption against short sentences of less than 6-months for non-violent offences. The majority of Conservative MPs said they would support the policy, with a quarter saying they “strongly support” it.

Today Revolving Doors Agency launches a new paper showing the problems with short sentences.  New data obtained by Revolving Doors Agency under Freedom of Information legislation has found that of people sentenced to less than 6 months in custody:

  • 3 in 5 report a drug or alcohol problem on arrival at prison.
  • 1 in 4 are released homeless.
  • 7 in 10 reoffend within a year of release.

Revolving Doors’ analysis of newly released data[2] from Scotland shows that the presumption against prison terms of less than 3 months, introduced in 2010, had reduced use of short jail terms by 40%[3]. By 2016/2017 crime in Scotland had fallen over 18%, with a 26% fall in property crime[4].

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State David Gauke MP saidif we can find effective alternatives to short sentences, it is not a question of pursuing a soft-justice approach, but rather a case of pursuing smart justice that is effective at reducing reoffending and crime.”[5]

Christina Marriott, Revolving Doors Chief Executive said:

“We have been making the strong case that short prison sentences are short-sighted. They not only damage the lives of both offenders and their children, they drive reoffending, creating more crimes and more victims. They contribute to prison churn and chaos, making it harder to rehabilitate the people who do need to be there.  Now that the Minister has the evidence that the majority of MPs agree with him, it is time to act.  The Scottish government has used a presumption against short sentences to improve public safety and save lives. It is welcome that our government is considering similar action.”


[1] Undertaken by YouGov. Online interviews with a representative sample of 100 MPs. The survey was completed between 16th and 28th January 2019;



[4] Scottish Crime Survey see and


Short-sighted campaign timeline

In March 2018 we launched our campaign that showed short sentences are short-sighted. We asked the government to review this issue and to consider introducing a new presumption against the use of short custodial sentences of less than six months. Since then we have had real impact. The Government has committed to explore options to restrict the use of short custodial sentences.