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Recidivism of Offenders Given Suspended Sentences in New South Wales, Australia

NCJ Number
British Journal of Criminology Volume: 48 Issue: 5 Dated: September 2008 Pages: 667-683
Don Weatherburn; Lorana Bartels
Date Published
September 2008
17 pages
In a review of the effectiveness of suspended sentences on recidivism, this Australian study used propensity matching to compare the effect of suspended sentences on recidivism to that of supervised bonds.
The results provide no evidence to support the contention that offenders given suspended sentences are less likely to reoffend than those given supervised bonds. While the characteristics of the offenders have very strong effects on the risk of reconviction, when offenders are matched in terms of these characteristics, the reconviction rates of those given suspended sentences and supervised bonds are almost identical. In summation, the results contradict the ‘special deterrent’ theory of suspended sentences. The modern form of the suspended sentence first appeared in France in the late 19th century. Although doubts about the effectiveness of suspended sentences in reducing the use of imprisonment have been around since at least the early 1980s, they have done little to diminish enthusiasm for the sanction. Suspended sentences are still in use in countries such as the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Israel, and Spain. In New South Wales, they account for nearly 5 percent of all sanctions imposed. Findings are reported here, from a study into the effect of suspended sentences on recidivism. The study involved a comparison of reconviction risks amongst matched samples of offenders given a suspended sentence or a supervised bond in New South Wales, Australia. Tables, figures, and references