Former prisoner blasts reform ideas

Everthorpe Prison
Everthorpe Prison

A FORMER prisoner from one of the region’s jails has spoken out against Government plans to hand out shorter sentences.

Steve Ellis, a 35-year-old aspiring artist, says that he is proof prison can actually work, having served time at HMP Everthorpe, but he disagrees that slashing sentences for early guilty pleas is the best way forward.

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has come in for stinging criticism in the past week for his idea to cut sentences by up to half if a defendant admits an offence straight away.

But Mr Ellis, a recovering heroin addict has been in and out of prison at least five times and says shorter sentences did not help him overcome his problems.

“When you serve a long time in jail you have a long time to think about it and you just don’t want to go back,” he said.

“Most people think of (short sentences) as an inconvenience - you’re in and, before you know it, your release date is just around the corner - so you think ‘This isn’t a problem for me’.”

He now lives with his girlfriend in Leeds and attends art college, having turned his life around in 2008 after battling his drug addiction. He put his recovery down to locally-run charity, Disc, who provide vital support for addicts.

He says that while halving a one-year sentence will halve the cost to the prison service, the savings are outweighed because intervention programmes do not have time to work.

“(The offender) may well get out earlier, but they may well then relapse or re-offend a lot quicker and that adds cost to the whole police budget, the court budget.

“If that person had served the full year we may have had more success actually keeping them out of crime for longer.”