Psychologists Call For ‘community Rather Than Custody’ For Offenders In London

February 3, 2009 at 8:00 am Leave a comment

The British Psychological Society is concerned about the Ministry of Justice’s latest strategies to combat the serious problem of re-offending in London.

The concerns were expressed via a response submitted on Friday 30 January to a published Ministry of Justice consultation document on Reducing Re-offending in London.

The Society welcomed the consultation as it addressed a complex and challenging task. However, if the Ministry of Justice does not take full advantage of available research on the reduction of criminal re-offending and on offender rehabilitation an opportunity to have an impact on crime would be wasted and communities could continue to suffer as a result.

One main issue was short-term custodial sentencing.

Professor James McGuire (Professor of Forensic Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool) commented; ‘Although it is official government policy to reduce the usage of short-term imprisonment, the report reveals that over 60 per cent of those in London’s prisons are serving less than 12 months. This achieves little if anything by way of public protection or reduced offending, and may indeed have the reverse effect. Yet the strategies proposed here will continue the same “revolving door” process and even bolster and expand it. This goes against research evidence, is costly in human terms for prisoners, their families and children, and in financial terms for the public. It does not serve the community well.’

The Society has called for a net ‘re-investment’ of resources in community rather than custody: reserving prison for those who need to be restrained, and extending community supervision elsewhere.

‘Increasing resources for community supervision and improving its quality would enable better monitoring of psychological changes linked to risk of re-offending, as well as providing better opportunities for rehabilitative work,’ Professor McGuire concluded.

British Psychological Society



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