I wish to advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service facilitated a major study of prisoner re-offending by the UCD Institute of Criminology. The study found that 27.4% of released prisoners were serving a new prison sentence with one year. This rose to 39.2% after two years, 45.1% after three years, and 49.2% after four years. The fact that over 50% of prisoners do not re-offend within four years of release, compares well internationally.
The Prisons and Probation Services provide a range of rehabilitative programmes which have the dual purpose of providing prisoners with purposeful activity while serving their sentences and encouraging and equipping them to lead productive lives on release. Prisoner rehabilitation involves significant multi-dimensional input by a diverse range of general and specialist services provided both by the Irish Prison Service and in-reach statutory and non-statutory services. Amongst these are healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, educational, work and training, vocational, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. These services are important in addressing offending behaviour, drug and alcohol addiction, missed educational and vocational opportunities, anger management, and self management in the interest of encouraging positive personal development in prisoners, and preparing them for re-integration and resettlement on release from custody.
In addition, the Probation Service has an active role during the course of the prisoner's sentence in helping maintain links with family and community agencies, encouraging prisoners to address their offending behaviour and engaging prisoners in individual counselling and group counselling programmes such as offending behaviour, addiction, violence and sex offending. The Service also provides supervision in certain cases under temporary release provisions.
The Irish Prison Service places a strong emphasis on access to educational services and on the provision of work and training activities for prisoners. As a result of the Programme for Organisational Change, there has been a significant expansion and development of vocational training programmes. The Work Training Service comprises an authorised complement of over 250 prison service posts and there are over 90 workshops operating in our prisons actively catering for in excess of 800 prisoners each day.
Educational services are now available at all institutions and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies in the community including the VECs, Public Library Services, Colleges and the Arts Council. Broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach. During the academic year 2007/08, 220 whole-time-equivalent VEC teachers were the main providers of these education programmes.
The Irish Prison Service is also delivering programmes aimed at reducing the demand for drugs within the prison system through enhanced security measures as well as education, treatment and rehabilitation services for drug-addicted prisoners. The Irish Prison Service Drugs Policy & Strategy — Keeping Drugs Out of Prisons — caters for the expansion of existing drug treatment programmes and further recruitment of dedicated staff working in partnership with community based services in the prisons. Particular initiatives include the provision of detoxification, methadone maintenance, education programmes, an information forum, addiction counselling, drug therapy programmes and the operation of drug free units.
Every effort is made to assist sex offenders in custody who are willing to participate at any level in their personal rehabilitation and relapse prevention. In this regard, there are three forms of direct therapeutic intervention currently available — i.e., individual counselling from the Irish Prison Service's Psychology Service and from the Probation Service; the Sex Offender Programme which has been in operation since 1994, and the Psychiatric Service which provides some support to prisoners in this category.
Significant progress is also being made in the development of programmes based on risk assessment and rehabilitation needs. The Irish Prison Service is developing and rolling-out, between now and 2012, a fully coordinated Integrated Sentence Management System (ISM) across all prisons and places of detention.
The Garda Síochána Act 2005 provides for the establishment of a joint policing committee in each local authority administrative area. There are currently 29 Committees in operation in a pilot phase to gain experience rolling the Committees out to all local authority areas in the State. In general the outcome to date has been positive, and the Committees are meeting definite local needs.
With regard to youth offending the Irish Youth Justice Service is committed to developing information and data on youth offending in line with its Strategy for 2008-2010. The Irish Youth Justice Service is also currently contributing to a research project on recidivism and young offenders. This study follows from the aforementioned study of prisoner re-offending by the Institute of Criminology at UCD. It will be a valuable addition to the existing research available on recidivism, with particular reference to young offenders.
As the Deputy will be aware Garda Youth Diversion Projects are a scheme of community based, youth oriented, multi-agency crime prevention initiatives which seek to divert young people away from becoming involved — or further involved — in criminal and/or anti-social behaviour. The projects are funded through the Irish Youth Justice Service and administered by the Community Relations Section of An Garda Síochána.
The aims of the Garda Youth Diversion Projects are:
To divert young people away from becoming involved — or further involved in criminal and/or anti-social behaviour,
To provide suitable activities to facilitate personal development and encourage civic responsibility and social inclusion and
To work towards improving the long term employability prospects of the participants.
Projects offer opportunities for education, employment training, sport, art, music and other activities. Many operate outside of school hours. In areas with a high proportion of early school-leavers, activities may also be planned during the daytime.
Participation in Garda Youth Diversion Projects is voluntary. The primary project target group, which forms the majority of project participants, is comprised of young people who have entered the Garda Juvenile Diversion Programme and are considered at risk of remaining within the justice system. The secondary project target group is comprised of young people who, although they have not been officially cautioned, have come to the attention of the Gardaí, the community or local agencies as a result of their behaviour and are considered at risk of entering the justice system at a future date. The number of participants in each project differs according to local circumstances and resources.
I am also glad to tell the Deputy that the policing priorities which have been set for An Garda Síochána for 2008 under the Garda Síochána Act, 2005 have been reflected in the Policing Plan for 2008. The first priority deals with targeting gun crime, organised crime and drug trafficking. It refers to the use, in particular, of specialist units and targeted operations such as Operation Anvil; profiling, intelligence gathering and threat assessments in relation to individuals and groups involved in this type of crime; and the pursuit by the Criminal Assets Bureau of the proceeds of crime including through the presence of enhanced liaison arrangements between CAB and Garda Divisions.