Fewer offenders should be locked up, says minister

There needs to be a "massive reduction" in the number of people sent to prison for 12 months or less, ministers say.Prisons minister Rory Stewart said short sentences made offenders more likely to commit crime.He also suggested prisoners released on licence could be used to fill labour shortages in low-skilled jobs caused "partly" by Brexit.The government is keen to reduce the UK's prison population, which has doubled over the past 25 years.Meanwhile, Justice Secretary David Gauke told The Times: "Twenty-five years ago the population was 44,000. Today it's 84,000. I would like it to fall."Why are community sentences falling out of favour?New body to get ex-prisoners into workMr Stewart said the increase had been driven by longer sentences for violent offenders and "many, many more sex offenders"."Nearly a quarter of our prisoners now are sex offenders, many of them older men in for historic sex offences," he told the Sunday Politics programme.There were also a lot of prisoners "cycling" in and out of the system on sentences of a few weeks or even less, in the case of those recalled to jail on licence days, he added.

Cocaine taking
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Image captionAre middle class drug users fuelling violent crime?
In a separate development, Mr Gauke claimed middle class drug users should feel "guilt and responsibility" for fuelling the rise in fatal stabbings in the UK.
"People who do that have to recognise they are fuelling the industry that's resulting in the knife crimes, resulting in the difficulties we're having in prisons," Mr Gauke told Sky's Ridge on Sunday.
"There's a responsibility for middle class people that take cocaine at a dinner party, that when they see a story of a 15-year-old boy stabbed in Hackney (east London) they should feel a degree of guilt and responsibility."
Police Federation deputy treasurer Simon Kempton has also blamed the wealthy for creating the demand for cocaine, while security minister Ben Wallace warned the UK was "fast becoming the biggest consumer" of the drug in Europe.

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