THIRTY thousand offenders including shoplifters and burglars could have been spared jail under plans being looked at by the government.
Prisons Minister Rory Stewart is considering scrapping sentences for criminals of six months or less to ease pressure on the system, it’s emerged.
He says the short sentences were “long enough to damage you and not long enough to heal you”.
He said: “You bring somebody in for three or four weeks, they lose their house, their job, their family, their reputation.
“They come into prison, they meet a lot of interesting characters and then you whap them on to the streets again.
“The public are safer if we have a good community sentence… and it will relieve a lot of pressure on prisons.”
More than half the 86,275 offenders sentenced to immediate custody in 2017 were given sentences of six months or less, figures show.
The move, which wouldn’t apply to violent or sex offenders, would apply to England and Wales.
Judges in Scotland already have a similar bar on sentences under three months.
Tory MP Tim Loughton, a member of the Home Affairs select committee, last night said: “It’s not about soft justice it’s about smart justice.
“We need to be smarter on first sentences and if they re-offend again we should make subsequent sentences much harder.”
A Ministry of Justice spokeswoman said: “As we have said previously, short sentences are too often ineffective, provide little opportunity to rehabilitate offenders and lead to unacceptably high rates of re-offending.
“That’s why we are exploring potential alternatives but this work is ongoing and we have reached no conclusions at this time.”