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CJA’s response to government announcement on prison overcrowding

The government has announced plans to release some offenders 18 days early to alleviate prison overcrowding. Justice Secretary Alex Chalk MP announced the move yesterday in Parliament, with exceptions for those serving a life sentence. Custodial sentences of less than twelve months in prison will be suspended, and offenders will serve their time in the community instead, subject to GPS monitoring.

The Criminal Justice Alliance welcomes any attempt to address the urgent issue of prison capacity, and we appreciate the focus on rehabilitation and community-based solutions. The CJA and our members are concerned that the deteriorating conditions in our prisons, as demonstrated in HMIP inspections, is diminishing the prison services’ ability to effectively deliver the rehabilitative support that can enable people leaving custody to transition back into society and away from crime.

It is regrettable however, that this new policy announcement comes as a result of inadequate planning, and an inability from the government to heed its own projections. Such a crucial decision should have emerged from a thorough and informed policy discussion and analysis, rather than emergency measures.

The circumstances leading to this policy announcement highlight a broader issue that needs to be addressed: the importance of proactive planning, evidence-based decision-making, and transparent discussions when it comes to criminal justice policies.

Other key points from the statement yesterday included:

  • Increased sentences for various offences including knife crime, dangerous driving, and causing or allowing the death of a child
  • Ended automatic halfway release for serious sexual and violent offenders
  • Making whole life sentences the default for serious murder cases
  • New legislation to ensure full custodial terms for serious sexual offenders
  • £400 million for over 800 new prison cells
  • Measures to remove foreign offenders and consider prison transfer deals overseas
  • Encouraging early guilty pleas to reduce remand population
  • Addressing IPP sentences for more proportionality

Click here to read the full statement from Alex Chalk MP.