Page last updated at 05:01 GMT, Thursday, 3 July 2008 06:01 UK

Community measures 'to cut crime'

Inside Manchester prison
The current jail-building programme has a target of 96,000 prison places

Money which is due to fund giant prisons should be spent on "community alternatives" to jail, says a charity.

Rethinking Crime and Punishment says money spent on measures including "supervised accommodation" would be more effective at cutting reoffending.

Director Rob Allen said prison was "a blunt tool for dealing with many women, children and mentally ill offenders".

The Ministry of Justice said the prisons would play an "effective role" in rehabilitation of offenders.

Three "Titan" prisons for at least 2,100 inmates are proposed for England, at an estimated cost of 350m each.

Earlier this month, Ministry of Justice documents suggested the estimated cost and said the jails were most likely to be located in London, the West Midlands and the North West.

The charity said the money would be better spent on hostels, half-way houses and other "supervised accommodation" for offenders.

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the government to invest instead in interventions that actually work
Rob Allen
Director, Rethinking Crime and Punishment
Institutions such as bail hostels are often unpopular with people living nearby who fear offenders will have a detrimental impact on their area.

But Rethinking Crime and Punishment has put forward a number of measures, including hostels, which it says should be introduced over the next six years to cut reoffending.

They include:

Each year, sending 6,000 prisoners, currently housed in short-term jails, on intensive offender programmes in the community, at a cost of 180m

  • Using 360m to allow courts to more thoroughly review the progress being made by 20,000 offenders
  • Enrolling 1,000 extra young offenders each year on intensive supervision courses, instead of sending them to prison, at a cost of 54m
  • Spending 300m to fund 500 extra intensive fostering places for young offenders

Mr Allen said diverting money to make community sentences work better would both reduce prison numbers and improve rehabilitation.

"Prison plays a vital role with violent and dangerous offenders, but it is a blunt tool for dealing with many women, children and mentally ill offenders," Mr Allen said.

"This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the government to invest instead in interventions that actually work."

The Titan plan was announced last December following Labour peer Lord Carter's recommendation that an extra 10,500 prison places be created in England and Wales.

But chairman of Rethinking Crime and Punishment Baroness Veronica Linklater said: "We will have a much safer Britain if we fund community alternatives to prison properly, and ensure that effective punishments are available to judges and magistrates."

Justice Minister David Hanson said prison was necessary to punish and reform offenders.

He said: "As well as modernising the prison estate, we believe Titan prisons can play an effective role in rehabilitation. They will not be 'warehouses', instead they will combine the best aspects of smaller prisons with the efficiency savings of centralised support services.

"There will be an absolute focus on providing the regimes needed to reduce re-offending."

The government had provided an extra 40m for the probation service and 13.9m to fund intensive projects which offer alternatives to custody, he added.

The current jail-building programme has a target of a total of 96,000 prison places by 2014.


SEE ALSO
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08 Feb 08 |  UK Politics

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