HC Deb 21 January 1982 vol 16 c400
4. Mr. Michael McNair-Wilson

asked the Secretary of State for the Home Department to what extent recidivism among those in prison shows any marked change over the past five years.

The Minister of State, Home Office (Mr. Patrick Mayhew)

The distribution of receptions into prison department establishments did not change markedly with respect to previous convictions over the period 1976 to 1980. Studies of the rate of reconviction after two years of those discharged between 1973 and 1977 show some increase for borstals and detention centres but no appreciable change for young or adult prisoners.

Mr. McNair-Wilson

Does my hon. and learned Friend agree that the recidivism rate is running at about 60 per cent.? If so, does it not underline Mr. Justice May's remark that a prison sentence today is not likely to do much to reform the criminal? If so, does my hon. and learned Friend agree that there is a strong case for the Home Office to set up an inquiry into ways in which imprisonment can be made a more effective deterrent against returning to prison.

Mr. Mayhew

The recidivism, or reconviction, rate after two years varies according to the age and the sex of prisoners. One of the uses and purposes of prison is to protect the public from a further offence by that prisoner, at least during the period the sentence is served. The Home Office research unit undertakes inquiries of this kind and will consider suggestions by my hon. Friend.

Mr. Kilroy-Silk

The question refers to the increase in recidivism over the past five years. Does the hon. and learned Gentleman agree that the increase in reconviction rates for young offenders over the past five years has been especially disturbing, not least the increase from 63 to 69 per cent. in reconviction to borstal training, from 64 to 68 per cent. in young prisoners and, most disturbing and alarming, from 59 to 68 per cent. to detention centre training? As the Criminal Justice Bill may mean that more young offenders end up in detention centres, does the Minister agree that there is perhaps a case for making statutory criteria to cover circumstances under which an offender may be sent to a detention centre?

Mr. Mayhew

Statutory criteria already govern the power of courts to send young offenders to detention centres. The increase in reconviction of young offenders is worrying. Without accepting the figures that the hon. Gentleman gives—I am not saying that they are not right—I agree that it is a matter of concern. There is, however, a need for a power to detain in custody young offenders who are capable of causing considerable harm to other members of the community.