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What do the punished think of punishment? The comparative experience of short prison sentences and community based punishments

Weaver, Elizabeth and Armstrong, Sarah (2010) What do the punished think of punishment? The comparative experience of short prison sentences and community based punishments. [Report]

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Abstract

Despite a substantial knowledge base about experiences of prison, there is scant research on the most common penal experience in Scotland – doing a short prison sentence (but see Criminal Justice Forum, 2003). Short prison sentences are one of the characteristic features of imprisonment in Scotland, where the vast majority of custodial sentences issued in a year (ranging anywhere between 75% and 80%) are for six months or less (Scottish Government, 2010). The current Government is pursuing an agenda to reduce the short sentence culture in Scotland, by expanding the use of community-based forms of punishment and creating a legal presumption against the use of very short stays in prison. In addition, there is also growing belief that bringing the voices of ‘users’ into policy deliberations and development are essential for the effective design and delivery as well as the credibility of public services (Weaver, 2010). Prisoners and offenders – like victims, communities, and criminal justice professionals – are a key user group of criminal justice services, and the Government has expressed interest in learning more about the perspectives of various users.