Skip to main content
25 June 2014

Public back community and health solutions to cutting crime

A YouGov opinion poll, released today by the Prison Reform Trust, reveals strong public support for effective community and public health measures to prevent crime and disorder.

The poll is launched ahead of the delayed announcement by the Justice Secretary Chris Grayling, confirmed today in Parliament for early in the New Year, which is expected to introduce radical changes to the probation service and the way in which community sentences are delivered.

Treatment for drug addiction, intensive supervision of community orders, and mental health care were the top three solutions to get public backing in the poll commissioned by the Prison Reform Trust.

The poll of 1,552 people across Britain, conducted on 18–19 November 2012, reveals:

  • Nearly seven out of 10 (67%) people thought treatment for drug addiction would be effective at preventing crime and disorder
  • Nearly two thirds (63%) thought intensive supervision of community orders would be effective
  • Six out of 10 (60%) thought mental health care would be effective

After these top three solutions, stopping binge drinking and imprisonment tied fourth as effective means to prevent crime and disorder.

Ministry of Justice statistics, published in the latest edition of the Prison Reform Trust’s Bromley Briefing Prison Factfile, show that community sentences are far more effective than short prison sentences of less than 12 months at preventing crime and disorder. Community sentences for 18-24 year olds outperform prison sentences by almost 13% in reducing reoffending. Even when offenders are closely matched in terms of criminal history, offence type and other significant characteristics the performance gap remains over 8%.

Reoffending by offenders sentenced to less than 12 months in prison, who currently are not eligible for statutory supervision by the probation service, is estimated to cost the economy up to £10 billion annually. A one year prison sentence costs the taxpayer £39,570. A community sentence costs between £2,750-£6,000 depending on geographical variation and requirements of the order and works better in many cases.

Under proposals put forward in the probation review, community sentences could be provided by private firms, voluntary sector organisations, social enterprises and staff mutuals. Contracts for local community provision would be commissioned centrally by the Ministry of Justice on a payment by results basis, with providers paid according to their success at reducing reoffending.

The probation service could lose overall responsibility for the delivery of approved services and probation in prisons. Only responsibility for managing high risk offenders and advice to the courts would remain in the public sector.

Commenting on the poll’s findings and the government’s proposed reforms, Juliet Lyon, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“Community sentences are now outperforming short prison sentences and are clearly more effective in reducing reoffending rates. Their hallmarks are intensive offender management and supervision, community payback, restorative justice, developing personal responsibility, and responding to support needs such as housing, employment, addictions, mental health and learning disabilities and difficulties.

“It would be a great shame if, rather than building on proven success, the government moved to make community sentences more punitive and undermined the vital role played by the probation service in protecting the public and responding to local need.”