....The Government should implement a holistic approach across central and local agencies and authorities in order to shift resources from the provision of custody for its own sake to the prevention of crime and the reduction of re-offending; This is nothing new: ‘prevention’ is not just better, more effective and cheaper, than ‘cure’ but is right in principle. Victims want to see fewer crimes. A genuinely victim-based approach to crime should therefore, go wider and deeper than providing supportive and responsive services for victims of crime, and be focused on crime reduction and prevention as well as justice.

....The key priorities for Government policy must be:

  • putting in place appropriate community-based services to prevent potential offenders from entering the criminal justice system and to divert them from the offending behaviour which can lead to custody;
  • creating a well-resourced, credible, nationally-available but locally-responsive system of community sentences that our evidence shows would be more effective in reducing re-offending than custody and hence prevent low-level, but nevertheless persistent, offenders from remaining within the criminal justice system;
  • establishing a financially sustainable and effective sentencing framework that can deploy community sentences on an evidential basis—including a mechanism, via statutory provision if necessary, to ensure custody is used only as a last resort—and promote the protection of the public by reducing crime effectively;
  • looking to the judiciary to adopt an active role within local criminal justice boards so that they better understand the outcomes of their sentencing decisions, and are enabled to draw lessons from what happens to those they sentence; judges and magistrates should be encouraged to work closer with criminal justice agencies as has been proved successful in community, and drug and alcohol, court initiatives;
  • committing to a significant reduction of the prison population by 2015—especially concentrating on women and those whose criminality is driven by mental illness and/or addictions to drugs or alcohol;
  • establishing an institution, or other mechanism, to assess and report on the effectiveness of criminal justice interventions—in much the same way that NICE does in health care—in order to move policy onto a firmer evidential footing, responsive to public opinion but insulated from media-driven reactions to emotive cases;
  • linking the planning and allocation of resources within the criminal justice system to the management and flow of relevant resources outside that system, principally at a local level;
  • implementing the approach to crime and regeneration set out in the Justice for All white paper, reflecting analysis of where offenders live and what local factors may have contributed to their offending; and 
  • backing up these prudent initiatives with the initial investment necessary to achieve success while expecting significant savings across a wide range of public expenditure areas over the longer term.

Read the whole report.