Low-level criminals to swap prison for community service, says Chalk

But rapists would be forced to serve their full sentence in prison under promised reforms, Alex Chalk has said.

Fewer “low-level offenders” will be sent to prison and will instead be set to work performing other tasks such as cleaning up local neighbourhoods, the Justice Secretary has said.

But rapists would be forced to serve their full sentence in prison under promised reforms, Alex Chalk said.

Capacity in British prisons is under serious pressure, with concerns in recent days that a lack of space could see sentencing delayed in some cases.

Writing in The Sunday Telegraph, the Justice Secretary said: “There have been inaccurate reports that judges are being told not to send rapists to prison. This is untrue. The most serious and dangerous offenders are being locked away for longer.”

He said ministers would “ensure rapists spend the entirety of their sentence in prison – so victims get the justice they deserve and the British people are protected”.

He added: “No longer will the perpetrators of this heinous crime walk out of prison after even two-thirds of their sentence. A 15-year sentence will mean 15 years in prison.

“This is the justice that the British people expect, and we will deliver it.”

Mr Chalk pitched his planned sentencing reforms as Texan-style justice as he acknowledged the prison system is under “intense pressure”.

The top Cabinet minister said details of the reforms will be set out on Monday.

“We need to look again at low-level offenders. Because while the overall reoffending rate is 25%, the rate for people who spend fewer than 12 months in prison is over 50%,” he said.

“A short stretch of a few months inside isn’t enough time to rehabilitate criminals, but is more than enough to dislocate them from the family, work and home connections that keep them from crime.

“Too often, offenders routinely turn back to crime as soon as they walk out of the prison gates.

“No prison system should further criminalise offenders or trap criminals who might otherwise take the right path in a cycle of criminality through a merry-go-round of short sentences.

“This is the wrong use of our prison system and taxpayers’ money. It doesn’t deliver for victims and it doesn’t cut crime. We need to fix this.”

Instead, Mr Chalk suggested prisoners could clean up neighbourhoods, scrub graffiti off walls or plant forests.

He added: “To govern is to choose. We choose to lock up the most dangerous criminals for longer and to cut reoffending by stopping the costly spiral of crime.

“To do that, we need to reform our approach to sentencing.”

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