Lewisham at the cutting edge of crime reduction

Lewisham is providing a test case for two areas of crime reduction policy. Firstly, in the value of community sentencing and secondly in one of the government's proposed reforms in its green paper on sentencing.

The ippr - once everyone's go-to think tank if they wanted to ingratiate themselves with the Labour government, now carving out a niche for itself examining the coalition's more progressive policies - has been studying Lewisham borough's offender population to test the case for prison reform. In a paper released last week, they argue that the evidence supports giving more offenders community sentences, rather than prison.

They say:

Using new data on those being released from prison and returning to live in Lewisham, this research shows that there are potentially very significant savings to the public purse if we reform the sentencing framework so that more people are given community sentences and fewer are sent to prison.

A total of 594 offenders were released into Lewisham in 2009/10 having served less than 12 months, at a cost to the state of £8.7 million, or an average of £14,710 per person.

241 people released into Lewisham served less than three months. Not sending those people to prison would have saved £1.3 million, or £5,590 on average per offender, in prison costs. If you still sent those who had committed violent offences from that group to prison, there would still be 194 fewer people going to prison, at a saving in prison costs of £1.1 million, or £5,655 on average per offender.

Reconviction rates from those given community sentences are 14 per cent lower than those released from custody, and a community sentence costs on average 12 times less than a prison sentence.

Also published last week, the Government's green paper on sentencing plans to introduce a "local incentive scheme" pilot roject in Lewisham and Croydon.

The paper says:

This model asks local partners to work together to develop a plan to prevent offending and reduce reoffending. They will then jointly commission innovative services to fill any gaps. They will be free to target their resources on specific groups of offenders in line with their local priorities and crime patterns. If they were able to reduce crime and hence demand for criminal justice services through their joint efforts they would share in any savings made. These could then be reinvested in further crime prevention activity at the local level.

With thanks to Mike.


patrick1971 said...

The "evidence" seems to consist of saying it's cheaper not to send people to prison. Which is obvious. But excludes any unobvious costs - people frightened to leave their homes because of repeat muggings and unsafe streets, decline in community atmosphere etc.

Crime is caused by criminals, and whether those criminals are on or off the streets has a big impact on the rest of us.

hang em high said...

. . and the costs of the crimes they did not commit when they were banged up . . .

drakefell debaser said...

Yes but if prison fails to rehabilitate the criminal then all we have is a revolving door.

The article does mention this:

Reconviction rates from those given community sentences are 14 per cent lower than those released from custody, and a community sentence costs on average 12 times less than a prison sentence.

Seems quite sensible to me.

Paolo said...

I wouldn't say that those figures support their argument.

It seems far more likely to me that the reason the reconviction rate for community service is lower is because these sentences are given for lesser crimes.

Who is more likely to be reconvicted - a first time shoplifter given a community sentence or a habitual criminal given prison time for his 6th offence?

If, as is likely, it is the second one, then it is a bit of nonsense to say that the reason its the second one is because he was given a custodial rather than a community sentence

Whether or not prison works in rehabilitating people, the fact is that whilst they are in prison they can do no further harm

Anonymous said...

What argument? The first paper says community sentences are cheaper. No surprises there.

The question is, is it worth locking up a prolific shoplifter for 2 months 3 times a year? Most people would agree that, on balance, probably not, especially if it costs us upwards of £14k.

So what can we do with this individual? The second paragraph outlines the new approach in the Green Paper.

Violent offenders are a different story, and the ippr paper seems to take account of that.

Anonymous said...

string em up, it's the only language they understand. 0% recidivism as well.

Anonymous said...

If they didn't get so many luxuries it would cost so much

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