Statement on Government announcement to extend presumption against short sentences

Written by
Alan Mairs

Following today’s announcement in the Scottish Parliament by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon MSP on the extension of the presumption against short sentences, Sacro’s Chief Executive, Tom Halpin released the following statement:

“Short prison sentences are known to be ineffective in reducing reoffending. Similarly, alternatives like effective bail supervision can reduce the need to remand people to prison unnecessarily.

"The impact of short prison sentences as a punishment is debatable, when most facing jail also struggle with other prevalent issues like alcoholism, addiction, learning difficulties, mental health and homelessness. In these circumstances, punishment can often be readily described as having a more significant impact on affected families.

"We know that effective community based sentences, with appropriate support like mentoring and other interventions that build positive skills, can help people to change their lives and make better choices. This does reduce reoffending and makes our communities safer with fewer victims of crime.

"The available evidence supports today’s announcement by the First Minister of a presumption against sentences of less than 12 months. But we do recognise that public confidence in the greater use of community sentences needs reassurance that the alternatives to prison are credible, do challenge offending behaviours and support change that is needed to reduce reoffending. Through today’s announcement we have a real opportunity to address offending behaviour.

"Bail supervision services do reduce the need to remand people to prison. With close support and supervision, we know that people can begin to rebuild their own and their families lives, while living in the community where they can gain confidence in being responsible citizens. Too often the use of remand does not result in a prison sentence and simply represents poor community based alternatives. The need for more community based support is a real challenge with limited public resources, but the benefits to be gained means this is a challenge we must all support Scottish and Local Government to deliver.”