Does prison reduce re-offending?
According to a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research (BOCSAR), offenders who are given a suspended sentence are no more likely to re-offend than those given a prison sentence of up to 12 months in duration.
The Bureau compared 3,960 matched pairs of offenders, one of which received a prison sentence of 12 months or less, while the other member received a suspended sentence of two years or less. None of these offenders had previously been sentenced to prison.
Offenders were matched on a large range of factors relevant to re-offending. Time spent in custody was taken into account. No differences were found in rates of re-offending between the two groups of offenders.
The director of the Bureau, Dr Don Weatherburn, commenting on the report, said:
“Our findings are also important from a public policy perspective. It costs about 10 times more to keep an offender in prison for a day than to keep an offender on some form of community corrections order.
The expenditure may well be justified in the case of offenders who are dangerous and or who are serving long (e.g. more than 12 month) sentences.
A large proportion of prisoners, however, are not serving long sentences. About one in six sentenced prisoners in Australia (one in five Indigenous prisoners), are serving sentences of less than 12 months. The bulk (69%) of these offenders are non-violent offenders.”
[Image: ‘Freedom out there…’ courtesy of Clayton Scott, Flickr.]