This briefing welcomes progress made since the start of our Short-sighted campaign calling for a reduction in the use of short prison sentences. The briefing also encourages people to join us in urging the Government to turn its recent warm words into firm proposals.
Our campaign shows that short sentences are short-sighted. It asks the government to consider ways to restrict the use of short custodial sentences of less than six months. It also urges them to ensure community sentences command public confidence and deal effectively with some of the underlying causes of persistent, petty offending.
Over half of all people sent to prison are sentenced to less than six months, most of them for non-violent offences. The most common offence for which people are given short prison sentences is theft, in particular shoplifting. This is often linked to underlying problems such as poverty, drug addiction, homelessness and poor mental health.
Our campaign has had real impact. The Justice Secretary gave a landmark speech on “smart justice” and put cutting short prison sentences at the heart of his plans.
The Justice Secretary is right to press on with this reform. Most people agree with the need to reduce the use of short prison sentences, including the public, MPs and several major newspapers.
We call on the Government to publish a Green Paper setting out how they will restrict the use of these short custodial sentences – including through legislation.
We also call on the Ministry of Justice to strengthen community sentences so that they command public confidence. Community sentences need to address the underlying causes of offending, including mental ill-health and problematic drug or alcohol use.