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Reform of short prison sentences? 29/09/2015 The Scottish Government is consulting on new measures to tackle ‘ineffective’ short prison sentences

Reform of short prison sentences?

The Scottish Government is consulting on new measures to tackle ‘ineffective’ short prison sentences. It has proposed extending the current presumption against short-term prison sentences in favour of community sentences that are backed by targeted support to address underlying issues such as drugs, alcohol, or mental health issues.

Under the new proposals, judges could still sentence an individual to a short prison sentence if they deemed it necessary given the circumstances of the case before them.

“All the evidence shows that short term prison sentences do not work, with 60% of offenders imprisoned for three months or less re-convicted within a year,” said Justice Secretary Michael Matheson.

The move was welcomed by Henry McLeish, Chair of the Commission into the future of Scotland's Prisons 2008. He explained:

"The most important recommendation in my Prisons Commission Report was to introduce a presumption against short sentences of less than six months. Legislation was passed on three months and we now have the possibility of a more radical reform.

“Extending the existing presumption period could be of significant help to the prison service, provide more effective and appropriate help for those who are not a threat to society and with further investment in community alternatives, help cut reoffending.”

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