Alternatives to Custody: Evidence from Police Force Areas in England and Wales

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  • University of Birmingham
  • Inc.
  • New York University School of Law


England and Wales have some of the highest incarceration rates in the developed world. Recent policy reforms have focused on developing alternatives to custody that offer credible protection for the public, and justice for victims of crime. This article uses unique detailed panel-level data acquired from the Ministry of Justice for all Police Force Areas from 2002 to 2013 in England and Wales to analyse the effects of custodial and non-custodial sentences on recorded crime. Our results suggest that non-custodial sentences can be an effective alternative to custody at reducing property crime but their effect is less consistent for violent crime. This suggests that non-custodial sentences are credible, cost-effective substitutes to incarceration.

Bibliographic note

Funding Information: This work was supported by the Economic and Social Research Council (ES/J500057/1). Publisher Copyright: © The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the Centre for Crime and Justice Studies (ISTD). Copyright: Copyright 2019 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.


Original languageEnglish
Article numberazy056
Pages (from-to)800-822
Number of pages23
JournalBritish Journal of Criminology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 6 Jun 2019


  • Community sentences, Incarceration, Panel data, Property crime, Sentencing policy, Violent crime