Police bill will ‘break’ prison system, says Friend

'Less chance of effective rehabilitation in an overstretched system'

A Quaker expert in criminal justice has highlighted a piece of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that she feels has been left ‘under the radar’.

Melanie Jameson, co-clerk of Quakers in Criminal Justice (QICJ), told the Friend that while parts three and four of the bill (protest and unauthorised encampments) have been scrutinised, she has been carefully monitoring part two. 

She said: ‘This concerns sentencing powers, with the direction of travel ever more punitive.

‘Once enacted, the overcrowded and overstretched prison system would be pushed to breaking point. The official Impact Assessment identified “Less chance of effective rehabilitation in an overstretched system”.’

Measures include, she said, ‘new life sentence offences; (some) children receiving custodial terms in line with adults; automatic release delayed to the two-thirds point through a sentence; and a ten-year maximum sentence for defacing a statue/memorial. In the community, the use of curfew periods, enforced by electronic monitoring, are greatly increased’.

She also highlighted ‘an important issue’ raised by Lord Beith on sentence inflation, during the six-and-a-half hour House of Lords’ debate. ‘As certain sentences lengthen, there will be a knock-on effect as other sentences become out of kilter and lengthen also. One of the final speakers stated that more custodial sentences and longer terms simply pander to the tabloid view that these reduce re-offending, with no evidence to back it up.

‘In the last ten years, the average prison sentence has increased by almost two years and the number of people sentenced to over ten years has more than tripled, giving us the highest per capita level of imprisonment in Europe.’

The bill reaches the Lords committee stage on 20 October, followed by the report stage then third reading, before returning to the House of Commons for consideration of amendments. Melanie Jameson’s full briefing can be read at www.qicj.org.

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