The Ministry of Justice is considering banning prison sentences of less than six months in England and Wales.
Around 30,000 offenders a year, including shoplifters and burglars, could be spared jail under the new proposals, according to The Daily Telegraph.
Ministers argue that shorter jail terms are less effective at reducing reoffending than community penalties.
“As we have said previously, short sentences are too often ineffective, provide little opportunity to rehabilitate offenders and lead to unacceptably high rates of reoffending,” a Ministry of Justice spokesperson told C-Store.
“That’s why we are exploring potential alternatives but this work is ongoing and we have reached no conclusions at this time.”
Barrie Seymour, owner of Londis Littletown in West Yorkshire, dismissed the idea as “bonkers”.
“The numbers will get worse and worse from now on. There is just no deterrent anymore. It just says to people ‘you can do what you want and not get punished for it’. It’s bonkers,” he said.
“They sit in their Ivory Towers and don’t see what’s actually happening on the front line. They don’t know what it is really like. I wish they would come down and see. They just sit in a tower and press buttons.”
The reported proposal would emulate Scotland, which has already introduced a ban on sentences under three months, with plans to extend the minimum to 12 months later this year.