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04/02/2011
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Ministry of Justice

Protecting the public

community work graffiti

We manage offenders from the point at which they are charged to the end of their sentence, providing supervision and support as they are reintegrated into society.


The professional staff working in the prison and probation services deliver the court’s punishment and help reform offenders.

The punishment and reform of offenders, and the reduction of reoffending, are fundamental to delivering justice and reducing crime – and this works for everyone.

It works for the law-abiding public because every criminal who becomes an ex-criminal means safer streets and fewer victims. It works for the taxpayer because turning people away from crime means that the money saved can be better spent on other public services. And it works for offenders because they get the chance to repay their debt to society and turn their lives around.

There are many forms an offender’s sentence may take, with both prison and community sentences having a role in the range of tough sentencing options available to the courts.

Prison is the right place to punish the most serious, persistent and violent offenders and ensure the public are protected from them. We will always provide enough places for such people.

Prison is a tough punishment which deprives offenders of their liberty and forces them to live within a strict regime. It also provides offenders with an opportunity to change their behaviour, develop the skills they need to get work when they are released and make a constructive contribution to society.

Serious sexual and violent offenders demand particularly intensive management. MAPPA (multi-agency public protection arrangements) planning ensures that police, prisons, probation and other responsible agencies discuss risks and agree together how best to manage particular offenders while they are in prison and when they eventually return to the community. The top priority is to keep the public safe and other services such as housing and health must cooperate with planning arrangements to achieve this.

For less serious offences, non-custodial penalties known as community sentences can be the right approach because they work better than short prison sentences to reform and prevent reoffending. A tough community sentence involves payback to society and can be effective in changing negative patterns of behaviour in those with chaotic lifestyles, turning offenders away from crime and, therefore, giving greater protection to the public. Many lesser offences are effectively punished with a fine.

At the end of a sentence, many offenders receive help from a range of services to support their rehabilitation.