ICPS Trustee Professor Andrew Coyle and Associates Rob Allen and Professor Rod Morgan have contributed to a new report published by the British Academy on 3rd July which urges that the UK stop relying so heavily on imprisonment as a form of punishment.
The report, titled A Presumption Against Imprisonment: Social Order and Social Values, illustrates how changes to criminal law and policy have led to progressively harsher sentencing regimes, with longer periods of imprisonment imposed on persistent offenders and the increased use of mandatory minimum and indeterminate sentences for certain crimes. The prison population in England and Wales almost doubled between 1992 and 2011, rising from just under 45,000 to 88,000. Although it has fallen back to about 85,500 today, it is estimated that by 2018 the prison population could reach more than 90,000. (A similar increase has occurred in Scotland.)
The report suggests a range of strategies to reduce our reliance on imprisonment, including reviewing sentence lengths, using diversion from the courts more extensively and promoting greater use of alternative forms of sentence. In addition to these strategies, the report recommends three ‘overarching institutional proposals’:
• the creation of a Penal Policy Committee, accountable to Parliament, to formulate policies on the appropriate use of imprisonment;
• greater attention by the Sentencing Council to the costs and effectiveness of different forms of sentence;
• an urgent review of cases of Imprisonment for Public Protection in which the minimum term has been served, with a view to release.
The report can be accessed here http://www.britac.ac.uk/news/news.cfm/newsid/1106