The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR), a left of centre think-tank, have proposed a new plan to reform how the cost of a petty criminal’s prison stay is funded. The ‘Prisons and Prevention: Giving local areas the power to reduce offending’ report showed that an “extraordinary” amount of money is spent in jailing petty criminals in England and Wales and that despite this, rehabilitation and aspirations of safeguarding victims and reducing crime often fail. They assert that the current system is “unsustainable”. The IPPR instead propose that the offender’s prison costs would be paid for by their local council and money held centrally by the government, which was previously used to pay prison costs, would be distributed to councils to be spent on alcohol and drug dependency programmes. The IPPR recommend that non-custodial sentences, for example curfews, community supervision orders, banning orders, restorative justice schemes and unpaid work, should be used more frequently. The aims of this plan are twofold; to help reduce the growing prison population by deterring local authorities from incarcerating low-level offenders and to prevent reoffending through the proposed newly funded alcohol and drug dependency programmes.
Jonathan Clifton, associate director for Public Services at IPPR, stated, “Our court system is clogged-up, our prisons are overflowing and we have the highest re-offending rate in Western Europe. Reform is desperately needed…We need to free up cash that is frozen in the prison system, and give it to local areas to invest in tackling the social problems that drive re-offending such as lack of qualifications, mental health problems and homelessness.”
A Ministry of Justice (MoJ) spokesperson stated that the MoJ welcome ideas regarding how to improve the prison system and will carefully consider the IPPR’s report. The MoJ agrees that the prison system requires reform to break the cycle of reoffending, declaring that almost half of prisoners reoffend within 12 months of release. The MoJ’s position was made apparent when their spokesperson explained, “We want prisons to be places of hard work and rigorous education. It’s only through better rehabilitation that we will reduce re-offending, cut crime and improve public safety”.