U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Intelligent Justice: Balancing the Effects of Community Sentences and Custody

NCJ Number
Mike Hough; Stephen Farrall; Fergus McNeill
Date Published
22 pages
This paper compares the effectiveness of prison terms and community sentences in preventing crime.
Findings suggest that imprisoning a large number of people for longer periods causes crime to fall in the short term but rise in the long term when they are eventually released; that prison's effect of deterring people from committing crime can be overestimated; places where many people are jailed see a range of negative consequences, including increased rates of sexually transmitted diseases, teenage births and serious juvenile delinquency; places where more people are imprisoned creates a system 'that feeds upon itself', exacerbating the very social problems that lead to increases in crime; and the key factor which prevents most people from offending is how likely they are to be punished, rather than how severe the punishment is. This research illustrates that current data such as reconviction statistics do not reliably measure the true impact of probation supervision and offender management programs. This has important ramifications for the government's desire to use payment by results in prisons and probation. Finally, this pamphlet offers suggestions on how people who have committed crime should be reintegrated into society. It emphasizes the importance of redemption; it is usually more effective, and cheaper to get people to 'buy into' behavior rather than compel or cajole or supervise them into it. Figures and bibliography