Department of Justice is now the Department of Communities and Justice.  Find out more >

Updated to new template​

AP20

Author Weatherburn, D. and Bartels, L. 
Published September 2008
Report Type Affiliated publication
Subject Recidivism / Re-offending; Sentencing
Keywords recidivism, suspended sentences

Download this publication

Summary

Abstract

The suspended sentence has been described as the ‘Sword of Damocles’ and praised as a means of exploiting the deterrent effects of prison while avoiding some of its human and financial costs. The deterrent value of suspended sentences is said to derive from the fact that the consequences of reoffending during the period of a suspended sentence are ‘known and certain’, whereas those attending a breach of probation are not. Past research, however, has shown that suspended sentences do little to reduce the use of imprisonment and, in some cases, actually increase it. Studies purporting to show the deterrent effectiveness of suspended sentences, on the other hand, have been few in number and methodologically weak. In this article, we use propensity matching to compare the effect of suspended sentences on recidivism to that of supervised bonds. We find no difference in rates of reconviction following the imposition of these sanctions. The implications of this finding for the UK system of suspended sentences are discussed.