Prison Accommodation and Sentencing

Ministry of Justice written question – answered at on 9 April 2024.

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Photo of Lord Jackson of Peterborough Lord Jackson of Peterborough Conservative

To ask His Majesty's Government whether they have commissioned any research on a causal link between (1) an expansion of prison places and more custodial sentences, and (2) a reduction in violent and other serious crime episodes in a given period of time.

Photo of Lord Bellamy Lord Bellamy The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Justice

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) has not commissioned research looking directly at any causal link of the kind mentioned in the question. However, the MoJ continues to carefully monitor the use of the prison estate and the sentencing framework to ensure that the most serious offenders are appropriately punished, and that the public are kept safe.

That is why we are embarking on the largest expansion of our prison estate since the Victorian era, investing £4 billion toward the delivery of 20,000 additional, modern places. By the end of 2025, we are on track to have delivered around 10,000 places in total.

Reducing crime and protecting the public, however, is not only about increased custody. Evidence shows that 55% of people given a custodial sentence of less than 12 months go on to be convicted of further proven offences in the following 12 months. For offenders punished with Suspended Sentence Orders with requirements that are served in the community, the reoffending rate is significantly lower at 24%. That is why we are introducing a presumption to suspend sentences of under 12 months. However, judges will still be able to exercise their discretion to impose custody in exceptional circumstances. We have also included exemptions to the presumption where there is a significant risk of harm to an individual or where the offender has breached an order of the court, as is the case for many repeat and prolific offenders.

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