The Ministry of Justice is expected to say that another 2,500 prisoners have been released early under the Governments’ end of custody licence scheme to ease jail overcrowding.
Local people will be able to set community service punishments for offenders for the first time, under new plans.
As part of pilot schemes in six areas of the country, citizens’ panels will able to tell probation officers and council officials what community sentences would help their neighbourhoods most.
Types of punishments handed out to offenders, who will have to wear high visibility tabards, range from graffiti removal and litter picking to clearing derelict land and decorating a community centre. I hope they do not get mistaken for Police Officers or PCSO’s with them wearing high vis tabards…………whatever next?
Meetings to discuss community “pay back” schemes will take place regularly in each of the pilot areas.
Officials said that if the pilots in Leicester, Manchester, Suffolk, Hampshire, Wiltshire and north Wales were successful they would be expanded nationwide.
Justice Minister David Hanson said the move was part of plans to increase “visibility of sentences” in the wake of a well-received report from Louise Casey, the Home Office’s respect adviser, earlier this year.
Mr Hanson said: “Citizens’ Panels will put the public at the heart of decision-making in their local communities, allowing them to have more say on the type of work that offenders carry out.
“We are trying to make sure local people have an input into what work needs to be done, and can see the benefits which come as a result of people getting sentenced for their crimes.
“It’s to make sure that people recognise that community service is a difficult sentence, is difficult for the offender, but can also have benefits for the community in which the offence was committed.”
Yesterday local people in Leicester backed the citizens’ panels pilot scheme, saying it was important offenders could be seen to pay for their crimes.
I doubt for one minute that victims will play a prominent role in this as community schemes will take a good second place to increased incarceration schemes. Then we will need more prison places, again.
Chicken or egg ?
The Conservatives also said that they want to scrap a controversial programme which has seen tens of thousands of prisoners freed 18 days early to ease over crowding in jails.
Currently prisoners sentenced to less four years in jail are released after half way their sentence.
Research by the Conservatives claimed that more than 15,000 serious long-term offenders were given the right to automatic release halfway through their sentence.
Shadow Justice Secretary Nick Herbert said under the Tories prisoners would have to be earn their release by steering clear of drugs in prison, comply with rehabilitation programmes and pay compensation to victims.
Courts would hand down two minimum and maximum sentences for offenders, Mr Herbert said.
He told the Conservative annual conference in Birmingham: “Prisoners shouldn’t be released early irrespective of their behaviour. They shouldn’t be released automatically, except at the end of their sentence.
“They should earn their release. So we’re going to reform sentencing fundamentally to introduce honesty in the process.
“If they abide by the rules, comply with rehabilitation programmes to acquire basic skills, and show themselves fit for the outside world, then they’ll be released.
So could this be a test to see if you are fit for early release?