Chris Grayling said he is attracted to a system that does not automatically release inmates at a certain point in their sentence regardless of how they have behaved.
The Tory minister also insisted he would not cut prison places, claiming falling crime rates were partly down to more offenders being locked up, according to the Daily Telegraph.
His comments come as a marked departure from policy under predecessor Ken Clarke, who suggested prison often proved “costly and ineffectual”. Mr Grayling said: “Every police force will tell you when a serial burglar is behind bars their local burglary rate goes down.
He added: “What people don’t particularly understand is why sentencing works in the way it does.
“If you get [sentenced for] 10 years, you’re out after five automatically. It’s not something that can be changed overnight, there are constraints on the system, there are constraints on prison places.
“Ultimately, I’m attracted by an option that doesn’t simply automatically release you at a certain point, regardless of whether you’ve behaved well or not.”
Mr Grayling, who wants inmates to be met at the prison gate by a mentor to help them get their lives back on track, insisted rehabilitation was key to his reforms.
He said: “These are not areas where you can deliver radical reforms overnight, you have to work in a direction. My message would be that I get and understand concerns the public have over aspects of the system at the moment, and I will take whatever steps I can to develop and reform the system in a way that makes that possible.
“One of the areas where possibly we’ve got increased scope in the future in monitoring offenders is GPS tagging, where new technologies mean actually it’s possible to watch an offender wherever they go.”
However Mark Leech editor of The Prisons Handbook for England and Wales said it may be based on a false proposition – and would only make any sense if resourced properly which is currently very unlikely.
Mr Leech said: “Currently the prison system has to manage prisoners sentenced under Criminal Justice Acts in 1991, 1998, 2003 and more legislation in 2005 – each of these demand prisoner release under differing circumstances – if we are to see now yet another sentencing regime the prison system must be resourced to cope with it – but I doubt if that will happen.
“It is also false to assert current sentencing is unfair, judges know exactly how long a prisoner will serve in custody and they sentence accordingly – increase the amount of time prisoners have to serve and there is a real risk judges will reduce the overall sentence length to compensate for that change.”