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Report calls for greater use of community sentences

A new report, based on research carried out in London, has suggested that community-based alternatives to prison should be used to punish the majority of people convicted of minor offences.

The report, which was published by the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR), argues for a national policy in which offenders currently sentenced to six months or less (for crimes excluding robbery, violent or sexual crimes) are not sent to prison, but serve tough community sentences instead.

Nationally, 58,497 people served prison sentences of six months or less in 2010. IPPR says that community sentences for this group would save tax payers £50 million pounds a year.

The report recommends that local authorities in England should be given much greater responsibility for the management of low level offenders and incentivised to keep them out of prison, but also out of trouble. It argues for a funding mechanism which would mean that councils were charged by the prison service each time one of their residents was sentenced to a term of less than twelve months. This would encourage councils to use devolved budgets to design effective schemes to reduce crime and reoffending.