Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Counterblast: the perennial problem of short prison sentences

Johnston, Helen; Godfrey, Barry


Barry Godfrey


In the last three or four years there has been increasing attention on the use of short prison sentences and their effectiveness in the UK. This attention has focused on the continued evidence of high rates of recidivism for those who have served short prison sentences and the inability of these sentences to reform or rehabilitate offenders. Current evidence suggests that over half of all custodial sentences are for up to six months, with the majority of prisoners serving only a few weeks or months inside prison walls (Ministry of Justice 2012a). In terms of rehabilitation, the experiences gained over those short periods of time appear to have little effect. Over half of those on short sentences are reconvicted within one year and reconviction rates have been steadily rising over the last ten years (Ministry of Justice 2012b). This can hardly be taken as evidence of an effective policy, nor of any sign of improvement. It seems particularly perverse to continue with this ineffective policy in a time of austerity because the cost of imprisoning people for short periods is a significant drain on national resources (over £286 million in 2010 according to the National Audit Office (2010)). We have, however, been struggling to make short sentences ‘work’ for a considerable time now, with a significant stream of criticism stretching back for over 100 years


Johnston, H., & Godfrey, B. (2013). Counterblast: the perennial problem of short prison sentences. Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, 52(4), 433-437. doi:10.1111/hojo.12030

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Jul 29, 2013
Publication Date 2013-09
Journal Howard Journal of Criminal Justice
Print ISSN 0265-5527
Publisher Wiley
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 52
Issue 4
Pages 433-437
Keywords Law
Public URL