House of Lords Publishes Report Highlighting Better Quality of Community Sentences
The House of Lords has published a report today that highlights an investment on better community sentences, which will help in cutting crime rates.
In its report, ‘Cutting crime: better community sentences’, The House of Lords Justice and Home Affairs Committee sets out proposals for making the most of community sentences which includes that prisons are at a critical point, at 99% of their capacity and many of them in extremely poor condition while importantly addressing the underlying causes of much offending and preventing reoffending, are not being used to best effect.
The use of community sentences has dropped dramatically. They must include a punitive element, but they can succeed where short-term prison sentences fail; indeed sentences of less than 12 months are described as providing a university education in crime. Community sentences on the other hand can guide offenders away from crime and at the same time meet public safety needs.
‘Treatment requirements’, for alcohol and drug use and for mental ill-health tailored to the individual are effective, but best practice should be shared more widely and they need investment.
It also states that The Probation Service, which supervises sentences, has faced many challenges over the last few years following institutional reorganisations, and is inevitably taking time to recover. Caseloads are unmanageable, there is a large shortfall in staff numbers, and the Service is struggling to produce the reports needed by the courts before they impose sentence. The recruitment and training of new probation staff should be sustained until vacancies are filled so that the Probation Service is fully functional. .
The need for mental health and alcohol and drug treatment far exceeds the current rate of imposition of Community Sentence Treatment Requirements. Drug treatment requirements have more than halved over ten years. 38% of people on probation have mental health difficulties but only 1302 started mental health treatment in 2022.
Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Committee, said:
“The use of community sentences has dropped dramatically over the last ten years. Used well, and with the necessary investment in the intensive treatment that is often needed, they can turn people’s lives around. If the crisis is regarded as an opportunity to focus on how to make the best use of community orders, their potential can be realised, to the benefit of individual offenders and of the community. We acknowledge the challenges the Government faces in the prison service, and welcome the attention on community sentences. Our report shows the contribution that these sentences can make, and that they are valuable in themselves and that they need commitment from Government for their full potential to be realised.”