Measures which seek to increase the automatic release point from halfway to the two-thirds point for adults convicted of certain offences should be paused to allow proper public scrutiny according to a new analysis of the government's Impact Assessment published by the Prison Reform Trust today.

The briefing, published on the same day that The Release of Prisoners (Alteration of Relevant Proportion of Sentence) Order 2019 is due to be debated in the House of Lords, will profoundly change the sentencing framework for serious offences, but has been subject to almost no meaningful scrutiny.

Government forecasts reveal that an additional 2,000 prison places will be needed, with a one-off capital cost of £440m and a permanent recurring annual cost of £70m at today’s prices—with no evidence that the measures will reduce better protect the public; provide greater public confidence; or improve understanding of increasingly complicated sentencing legislation.

Given the parallel commitment to a major sentencing bill later in this parliament and the expectation of a White Paper preceding it, the process by which this policy change is being implemented is plainly inadequate, and no justification is given in the impact assessment for the urgency with which it is being carried through in isolation from other sentencing proposals.

Peter Dawson, Director of the Prison Reform Trust, said:

“It’s not surprising people are confused about prison sentences. For two decades, successive governments have been making the law more rather than less complex, and this change will only add to the confusion. A new government has the opportunity to think strategically about what prison can and can’t achieve. It should take the time to listen and plan—this rushed approach does neither.”

Download a copy of the briefing by clicking here.