British Burglars Could Go Free!

The United Kingdom is seriously considering doing away with prison sentences for scores of “lesser” crimes, Home Affairs Correspondent Tom Whitehead reports for the Daily Express.

Hundreds of thousands of crooks could escape jail every year under the proposals by advisers to the Lord Chief Justice.Hundreds of thousands of crooks could escape jail every year under the proposals by advisers to the Lord Chief Justice. Those sentenced to short, sharp shock jail terms of less than 12 months for “less serious offences” — including burglary — should be handed community penalties instead, they said. Even those who are likely to reoffend could walk free from court if it is believed they will go on to commit “non-serious offences”.

[…]

More than 292,000 burglaries were reported to police last year. Burglars are locked up for an average of six months — but the Sentencing Advisory Panel said unpaid work or a curfew could be a better way of punishing them.

The panel — which advises the Sentencing Guidelines Council, chaired by the Lord Chief Justice — said short custodial sentences are not as effective at rehabilitating offenders. But it stressed that, rather than suggesting longer jail terms, it was saying that “there may be better alternatives to short custodial sentences”. The panel’s review said: “A presumption in favour of a community order is most likely to be appropriate in relation to the less serious offences of theft and dishonesty, burglary and motoring offences, where there may be clear advantages in a sentence in the community.”

I got the story from Ace, who quips, “I assume such penalties will include standing outside doing make-work like picking up trash in neighborhoods, becoming familiar with local houses and security systems and blind spots and police presence.”

Really, though, I think they’re on the right track.  Burglars, especially repeat offenders, likely should be taken off the streets.  But it’s not at all clear that subjecting drunk drivers, drug offenders, and minor white collar criminals to the horrors of the prison system is a net plus for society.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Bithead says:

    As long, I suppose, as they don’t try to sell encyclopedias.

  2. DL says:

    I have no problem with burglars going free if they follow the NIMBY rules.

  3. Andy says:

    There’s a growing consensus that petty drug use does not deserve jail time; beyond that, it’s hard to make a long list of the kinds of criminals any of us would prefer to see insulated from jail as a matter of policy.

    I’d object to easing up on either drunk drivers or white-collar criminals… in the first case, the fear of imprisonment is an important counterbalance to the sense of entitlement a lot of people have towards drinking and driving, and in the second, it’s an important class equality statement that we treat someone who steals from a pension fund the same as someone who steals from a liquor store.

  4. James Joyner says:

    it’s an important class equality statement that we treat someone who steals from a pension fund the same as someone who steals from a liquor store.

    Very different things, unless you’re talking burglary. Robbing a liquor store is a violent crime.