Jail terms of six months or less should be scrapped, says Prisons Minister

Posted On: 
12th January 2019

Prisons Minister Rory Stewart has called for prison sentences under six months to be scrapped, freeing up thousands of places in UK jails.

Almost two-thirds of prisoners released after short sentences re-offend within a year.
Credit: 
The House

Mr Stewart, who was handed the role of Prisons Minister in January last year, said he backed the Scottish system which has a presumption against short jail spells.

He told The Telegraph:“People coming in for very short sentences are statistically more likely to [reoffend] than if they were not sent to prison at all.

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“Bring somebody in for three or four weeks and they lose their house, their job, their family, their reputation. They come here, they meet a lot of interesting characters to put it politely, and then you wop [sic] them out in the streets again."

It estimated that his proposals could spare 30,000 criminals a year from custodial sentences, relieving pressure on a prison population that has nearly doubled since the early 1990s.

According to the paper, the Ministry of Justice is now considering allowing courts to apply prison terms of over six months only if the sentence is for a violent crime or sexual offence.

Almost two-thirds of prisoners released after short sentences re-offend within a year, according to Ministry of Justice figutes.

The Prisons Minister also plans to curb violence in Britain’s prisons, having dramatically promised to resign in a year if he was unable to reduce violence and drug use in the country’s most troubled jails.

According to MoJ stats there were 325 deaths in custody in the year to September - including at least five homicides - and over 32,000 incidents of assault.

Overall incidents of assault and drug use have meanwhile seen a three-fold increase in the last decade alone.

But Mr Stewart said: "I imagine that by the spring it will still be rising. There’s no sign of it stopping... it’s going to be a bloody difficult thing to do."

The Prison Reform Trust, which has previously called for a reduction in short sentences, meanwhile praised on Mr Stewart's tenure at the MoJ.

"He’s really energetic and committed," former prison governor Peter Dawson - now head of the trust - told The Telegraph. "You feel he cares about it."