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16 Oct 2023

Howard League responds to government announcement on prison overcrowding and sentencing reform

The Howard League for Penal Reform has responded to the government statement on prison overcrowding and sentencing reform, announced today (Monday 16 October).

Andrea Coomber KC (Hon.), Chief Executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: “Two-thirds of prisons in England and Wales are overcrowded, so it makes sense to introduce targeted early release and limit the use of short sentences, particularly as the Ministry of Justice’s own research has proven they are ineffective.

“The government is right to prioritise using prison space for people who have committed serious and violent crimes, but the plan to keep those convicted of rape behind bars for their entire sentence raises concerns – especially if it means that they will be released without any form of probation supervision.

“We welcome any move to reduce the prison population and ensure that prisons can be safe and purposeful places where people get support to move away from crime. The Secretary of State’s announcement should signal a new approach to making sure imprisonment is used as effectively and humanely as possible.”

Notes to editors

  1. The Howard League for Penal Reform is the oldest penal reform charity in the world. It is a national charity working for less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison.
  2. More information about prison overcrowding can be found on the Howard League website.
  3. A Ministry of Justice research paper, published in 2019, concluded: “This study found that sentencing offenders to short term custody with supervision on release was associated with higher proven reoffending than if they had instead received community orders and/or suspended sentence orders.” The research can be found here.
  4. More information about short prison sentences can be found in a UK Parliament POSTBrief, The use of short prison sentences in England and Wales, published in July 2023.


Rob Preece
Communications Manager
Tel: +44 (0)7714 604955

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