The recidivism of offenders given suspended sentences: A comparison with full-time imprisonment

Rohan Lulham, Don Weatherburn, Lorana BARTELS

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The suspended sentence has been described as the ‘Sword of Damocles’ and praised as a means of exploiting the deterrent effects of prison while avoiding some of its human and financial costs. The deterrent value of suspended sentences is said to derive from the fact that the consequences of reoffending during the period of a suspended sentence are ‘known and certain’, whereas those attending a breach of probation are not. Past research, however, has shown that suspended sentences do little to reduce the use of imprisonment and, in some cases, actually increase it. Studies purporting to show the deterrent effectiveness of suspended sentences, on the other hand, have been few in number and methodologically weak. In this article, we use propensity matching to compare the effect of suspended sentences on recidivism to that of supervised bonds. We find no difference in rates of reconviction following the imposition of these sanctions. The implications of this finding for the UK system of suspended sentences are discussed

The Recidivism of Offenders Given... (PDF Download Available). Available from: [accessed Jun 14 2018].
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1-16
Number of pages16
JournalCrime and Justice Bulletin
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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