The impact of offender characteristics on reoffending

MoJ research

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The Ministry of Justice has produced an Analytical Summary on whether offender characteristics affect the impact of short custodial sentences and court orders on reoffending. It analyses a series of datasets from 2008-2011 on adult offenders released from custodial sentences of under 12 months or who started a court order (community and suspended sentence orders) within that time. In this period people sentenced to short terms of custody received no supervision on release.

The report examines whether the impact differs according to offenders' age, ethnicity, gender and mental health. It also provides further analysis on the reoffending impact of suspended sentence orders compared with similar cases where community orders were given, whether the impacts vary according to the number of previous offences, and the impacts of mental health and alcohol treatment requirements.

The report found that reductions in reoffending were associated with the use of court orders as compared with short-term custody. The effects were greater for people with larger numbers of previous offences, and differed according to an offender's age group, with relatively more benefit for those aged 18–20 and those over 50, and less benefit for those aged 21–29. The use of court orders was associated with more benefit than short-term custody for offenders with 'significant' psychiatric problems and those with current or pending psychiatric treatment.

For those with identified mental health issues, mental health treatment requirements (MHTRs) attached to court orders were associated with significant reductions in reoffending. However, for those with identified alcohol use issues, alcohol treatment requirements were associated with similar or slightly lower reoffending where they were used compared with similar cases where they were not, and so are not as successful in reducing reoffending as MHTRs.

Suspended sentence orders were associated with a reduced rate of reoffending (over a one year follow-up period) of around four percentage points compared with similar cases where community orders were given, with a smaller impact over longer follow-up periods. Suspended sentence orders were associated with more benefit in reducing reoffending as age increased and less benefit as the number of previous offences increased.

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