Statement on presumption against short periods of imprisonment

Statement on presumption against short periods of imprisonment

The presumption against custodial sentences of three months or less has been in place for almost five years and has failed to have any significant impact on the size of Scotland's prison population. Short prison sentences rarely address the causes of crime and disrupt family life, employment and housing arrangements – all factors that reduce the risk of someone reoffending on release.

We welcome the fact that there is considerable support for extending the presumption to prison sentences of 12 months or less, notably from HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, a former Director of Judicial Studies, as well as a number of local authorities and leading voluntary sector organisations that work with those caught up in the criminal justice system.

Changes to early release arrangements made by the Prisoners (Control of Release) Act 2015 mean that some long term prisoners will be spending more time in custody. To fund the costs associated with these changes (which are predicted to produce additional annual costs of £16m by 2030/31), the Justice Secretary has stated that he expects to make savings through reducing the use of short term prison sentences.

Combined with the fact that the Scottish Government is proposing a 11% reduction to the Scottish Prison Service’s overall budget in 2016/17, there is real pressure to tackle Scotland’s over-reliance on imprisonment.

The Scottish Government must act now to shift emphasis and resources from custody to community-based responses to offending behaviour.

Of the responses published on the Scottish Government website, two thirds of respondents supported extending the presumption to prison sentences of 12 months or less: https://consult.scotland.gov.uk/community-justice/short-periods-of-impri...

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