9:00am Friday 11th May 2012
A LEADING boss at Cheshire Probation Service has spoken of the importance of considering alternatives to prison.
John Davidson is assistant chief executive based at the CP office on Friars Gate.
He covers Warrington and Halton and believes community orders can provide punishment that has more impact than a jail term.
“The problem is that people think community punishment is the soft option but then you ask people what we do and they don’t know,” he said.
“I think it’s undersold. The simplistic view that prison is the tough option isn’t always the case.
“For some people prison isn’t horrendous, especially if they have been there a number of times.
“If you’re an individual who is used to getting up at noon and messing around, for them it means reporting at 9am, doing a day’s work and not getting paid for it.”
Community penalties are commonly used in cases such as theft, burglary and low level assault.
They can include curfews, an order to undergo a treatment programme and unpaid work.
It can mean more than 240 hours of labour over 12 months and anyone who does not complete the programme is taken back to court.
“If they go to prison they will serve six weeks of a three-month sentence, sit in their cell, talk to people they know, then be out.
“Some would take the view that they would rather have those six weeks than 12 months of the so-called soft option.”
The Government mandate for the Probation Service is to punish offenders, reduce re-offending, rehabilitate, protect the public and ensure the impact of crime on the victim is understood.
For Mr Davidson, who currently deals with 900 offenders in Warrington, rehabilitation is a key focus.
He said: “The re-offending rate for someone who has a short custodial sentence is 78 per cent.
“It is 36 per cent for someone on probation.
“It’s about trying to encourage people to think beyond prison as a punishment.
“The reality is we need to stop this person. What we are trying to do is to prevent future victims.”
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