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​Does going to prison reduce the risk of further offending?

Full report: Does going to prison reduce the risk of further offending? pdf 634kb

Embargo 10.30AM, 2 December 2015

Offenders given a suspended sentence are no more likely to re-offend than those given a prison sentence of up to 12 months in duration, a new study by the NSW Bureau of Crime Statistics and Research has found.

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.

During the 36 month follow-up period, 42% of those receiving suspended sentences and 43% of those receiving custodial sentences were convicted of a further offence. The difference in re-offending was not statistically significant.

Commenting on the findings, the director of the Bureau Dr Don Weatherburn said sentencing courts contemplating imposing a suspended sentence of up to two years instead of full-time custody of 12 months or less need not be concerned about the possibility that imposing a suspended sentence will put the public at greater risk.

"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."

Further enquiries: Dr Don Weatherburn (8346 1100)

Copies of the report: www.bocsar.nsw.gov.au