Short prison sentences don’t work new figures suggest

Longer sentences or Community Payback orders have lower reconviction rates latest figures show

Offenders given short prison sentences had a higher number of reconvictions than those who were sentenced to longer periods, Scottish Government statistics show.

The figures showed that 43.8% of those released from custody in 2018-19 went on to reoffend – a 2.8 percentage point increase from the previous year’s total of 41%.

Justice Secretary Keith Brown commented: “Our Programme for Government is clear we should be working to change the way that imprisonment is used, while expanding community justice services which support community sentences and other interventions that deliver real improvements.

“Community sentencing makes individuals pay back to the community while addressing the underlying causes of their offending behaviour. And they work.

“These figures show those given short custodial sentences of one year or less are reconvicted nearly twice as often as those given Community Payback Orders.”

The report said offenders given shorter sentences commit relatively less serious crimes but tend to commit more of these crimes.

It also said those who have served shorter sentences do not have the opportunity to engage in rehabilitative work whilst in custody, "therefore, they are reconvicted more often”.

As a result the figures showed that in 2018-19 the average number of reconvictions per offender for those given a custodial sentence of three months or less was 1.22 – compared to 0.09 for those who had been given a sentence of four years or more.

While the reconviction rate for those who had been in prison increased, the figures showed no change in this for offenders given a Community Payback Order.

The reconviction rate for such sentences was 29.2% in 2018-19, the same in as in 2017-18.

The reconviction rate was highest amongst those who had committed a crime of dishonesty – with 45.6% of this group going on to reoffend.

Meanwhile, those who were guilty of sex crimes had the lowest reconviction rate, at 10.4%

Almost one in five (17.7%) of those convicted of domestic abuse in 2018-19 went on to offend again, with 6.9% committing more domestic abuse.

And while the overall reconviction rate has increased, the number of offenders going on to commit subsequent crimes is lower than it was a decade ago.

The report noted: “Over the 10 years between 2009-10 and 2018-19, the reconviction rate has fallen by 2.3 percentage points from 30.6% to 28.3%, and the average number of reconvictions per offender has decreased by 11% from 0.56 to 0.50.”