Headlines: February 5th, 2002

Home secretary David Blunkett wants offenders convicted of non-violent crimes to be allowed out of prison on weekdays so they can go to work. The proposals envisage hostels on and off prison premises where prisoners would spend evenings and weekends in custody. This type of hostel facility is currently available on RAF bases and other stations. During the day thousands of offenders would wear electronic tags, or voice recognition technology would be used to ensure that they did not abscond.Mr Blunkett said he wants to give judges and magistrates an alternative to “soft” community service sentences or “over the top” jail terms for more minor offences. Such measures would respond to the issue of 60% of inmates reoffending on release and would also mean resources could be concentrated on taking a harder line against more dangerous offenders.

Director general of the Prison Service, Martin Narey, said he believed that the third way between community sentences and prison will work. The Prison Governors Association, also welcomed the proposal, but said they do not want the Prison Service to be given responsibility for a new hostel system.

The home secretary is negotiating with Chancellor Gordon Brown to get the necessary funds for the new schemes.