Long prison sentences ineffective, report finds

'The number of people given a prison sentence of ten years and above has more than doubled in a decade.'

Quakers have welcomed a report showing that the dramatic rise in long prison sentences does not help victims, offenders or the public.

The report – from the Independent Commission into the Experience of Victims and Long-term Prisoners – calls for a national debate on serious crime sentencing, backed by a Law Commission review, a citizens’ assembly, and better public understanding of sentencing.

The number of people given a prison sentence of ten years and above has more than doubled in a decade, but, according to the report, the public remain dissatisfied and victims feel unsafe, traumatised and neglected.

Tim Newell, former prison governor and Quaker restorative justice expert that draconian cuts to prison services, and a focus on retribution, had left prisoners serving long sentences with no help, despite rehabilitation being a legal basis for sentences, and essential to make society safer.

He said: ‘Serious crime is life-changing, for both perpetrators and victims and their families, but rehabilitation, or the potential for healing of wounds inflicted by the crime and its punishment, is largely overlooked in a criminal justice system focused on retribution.’

One Quaker prison chaplain said that the system was still struggling badly with years of underfunding: ‘Over the last 25 years there have been two tremendous cutbacks in staffing levels which we haven’t come back from. Provision has been decimated.

‘The government is proposing to increase the prison population by 45 per cent, but without resources. There is nothing for rehabilitation, just punishment and incarceration. Everybody is being treated like a hostage coming down a conveyor belt.

‘Prisoners are getting steadily older, there are more disabled, more dying of cancer and MS.’

Eighty Quaker prison chaplains work across the country.

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