Nearly 40% of convicted criminals in Burnley re-offend within a year, according to Ministry of Justice statistics, with the borough having one of the highest re-offending rates in the country.
Figures show that 38% of the 953 adults released from prison, cautioned, or handed a non-custodial conviction at court between October 2016 and September 2017 in Burnley committed at least one further crime within 12 months. Between them, the 362 re-offenders racked up 1,614 new offences - an average of four each - and had each committed 32 previous crimes on average.
The re-offending rate was slightly higher among children, with 14 of the 36 offenders aged under 18 in Burnley (39%) committing another crime in the year following a court conviction, caution, reprimand, or warning. Nationally, 29% of adult offenders in the October 2016 to September 2017 cohort re-offended within 12 months, rising to 39% for juveniles.
Across England and Wales, re-offending costs the public an estimated £18 billion each year, with prison reform advocates warning that a revolving door of short sentences for repeat offenders has led to cramped jails and a multibillion-pound bill for taxpayers.
Numbers show that while re-offending rates vary considerably depending on both the type of offence and length of sentence, 62% of adults released from prison sentences of fewer than 12 months re-offend, leading former justice secretary David Gauke to call for short jail terms to be scrapped earlier this year. Chief probation inspector, Dame Glenys Stacey, has also criticised the "expensive merry-go-round" whilst stressing that scrapping short sentences would not reduce re-offending on its own.
"Cramming more and more people into prisons is a recipe for squalor, violence, drug abuse and mental distress - and, as these figures show - ultimately more crime," said Frances Crook, chief executive of the Howard League for Penal Reform.
"Introducing an assumption against short prison sentences, as has been implemented in Scotland, would better protect the public because evidence published by the Ministry of Justice shows that short bursts of imprisonment lead to more offending and more victims," Frances added. "For children, the evidence is even clearer: the more contact a child has with the criminal justice system, the more entrenched they are likely to become – and this pushes up offending rates."
The MoJ said while the youth re-offending rate has increased slightly over the last decade, the number of children entering the justice system has dropped dramatically, with a spokeswoman saying: "Re-offending creates more victims of crime and costs society over £18 billion a year - that's why we're creating a system that can rehabilitate offenders while ensuring robust monitoring takes place in the community.
"In order to achieve this we are giving offenders the skills and support they need to succeed in the outside world, while our probation reforms will make sure licence conditions are enforced consistently."