Matthew Ellis

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Short prison sentences should stop being given to help prevent the spread of coronavirus, Staffordshire’s Police and Crime Commissioner has said.

Matthew Ellis joined fellow commissioners to call for changes to sentencing as the country battles the COVID-19 outbreak.

The commissioner, who led a review into crime in prisons in the West Midlands last year, said:

“There are practical reasons during the current pandemic to reduce pressure on our prison service by releasing low-risk, non-violent individuals serving short sentences.

“If that happens, we must also ensure that a robust study is in place to examine the outcomes for all individuals released. It will help inform the on-going debate as to the effectiveness, or not, of short term custody in prison. 

“Our study last year across the prison estate in the West Midlands suggested, far from reforming individuals, short stays in prison make it more likely individuals become entrenched in more serious criminality than they were actually imprisoned for in the first place.”

Matthew Ellis

The review saw the commissioner visit prisons throughout the region.

He said any changes could be used to influence future decisions on shorter jail stays handed out by the courts.

“If the current circumstances lead to a temporary halt in short prison sentences, I think it’s vital that we capture that data so it can be considered for potentially longer-term measures in the future.”


Founder of Lichfield Live and editor of the site.

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  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform have been calling for less short term sentencing for decades – ironic that now it is felicitous, the Tories jump aboard.

    That said, yes, magistrates need to ensure that a custodial sentence is appropriate in the circumstances and give greater consideration to community punishments, like restricting people to their home address, should be a breeze right now.

  2. “…I think it’s vital that we capture that data so it can be considered for potentially longer-term measures in the future.”
    What is he saying here? When I read vague yet very ominous doublespeak I cannot help feeling unnerved by it. Basically he is freeing up real prison space. I predict that the house arrest that we are all being subjected and meekly adhering to will continue into the near future and woe betide anyone who speaks up about it, let alone tries to break it.

  3. With custody sentences or parole type punishments the cost to society is still substantial. There is rarely (or never) restitution for the victims.
    Of course the nature of crime is varied and there is already instruction to magistrates to treat cases on their merits. This alters in line with government policy and has, in the last decade, swayed from draconian sentences to very lenient ones.
    There is probably no good way of dealing with the ever expanding prison population. While I think short periods of incarceration probably disproportionately punishes some cases; especially those in employment and a settled background, I have far less sympathy for repeat offenders.
    Prisoners who are prepared to disclose full details of their crimes,and atone in an appropriate way, mostly deserve clemency. In truth the ‘little’ criminals are always the ones who get caught. The corporate ones rarely are.
    As for treating Coronavirus as an expedient for changing the law. That has to be wrong. It needs to be studied in the round and better reasoning reached for how those who transgress are better dealt with.

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