Bonds, suspended sentences and reoffending: does the length of the order matter?

17 Jul 2013


Studies of the specific deterrent effect of criminal sanctions have mostly focused on prison. This is, in some ways, unfortunate as non-custodial penalties are far more frequently imposed than custodial penalties. In this study, the authors use propensity score matching to assess whether the length of a bond or suspended sentence makes any difference to the time to first new offence. The results suggest that it does and that offenders given long bonds or suspended sentences take longer to reoffend than offenders given short bonds or suspended sentences. These findings have significant implications for sentencing policy. However, as is highlighted, although the study controlled for a wide range of factors, results may have been affected by unmeasured differences between those who received long bonds or suspended sentences and those who received short bonds or suspended sentences. Further research is necessary before it is clear whether longer bonds and suspended sentences would be effective in reducing the overall rate of reoffending.

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