Public safety is an absolute priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality. Working to reduce re-offending and minimise the risk of further harm to victims and society, through the implementation of effective evidence-based penal policy, is a key part of that task.
I welcome last week’s publication by the CSO of the most recent Recidivism Study which is part of a series dealing with re-offending following imprisonment and probation interventions. It should be noted that this study shows a significant decrease in prison recidivism and clearly demonstrates that recidivism rates are on a downward trend.
The report covers a group of 1,000 offenders released from prison in 2011 and 2012, and follows them up to the end of 2014 and 2015 respectively. The recidivism rate stood at 55% in 2007, but the report shows it fell to 45.8% in 2012. Overall, this represents a decrease of 9.3% over a five year period.
I was also pleased to note that the CSO study published in June last in relation to offenders sentenced to probation also recorded noted significant reductions, with a drop of nearly 8 percentage points in re-offending rates recorded between 2008 and 2012. The report shows that those sentenced to a Community Service Order were less likely to re-offend than those sentenced to a Probation Order.
I also particularly welcome the finding that Community Service continues to show very good outcomes. Over 350,000 hours of community service work were carried out around the country in 2018. This not only benefits communities nationwide and allows offenders a chance to make amends for their criminal actions in a tangible way, but the findings of the CSO’s work clearly shows that such orders can also help reduce re-offending rates by the individuals involved.
While there is clearly scope for further improvement, overall this evidence is very positive. It means that more ex-offenders are turning their lives around, and fewer are going on to re-offend, with all the negative consequences that brings for our communities.
I expect that future studies in this CSO series are likely to show a continuation of the downward trend as, since 2015, a range of enhanced prisoner programmes aimed at reducing re-offending behavior have been introduced by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service. These include targeting offenders with high recidivism rates, in particular through the Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC), a multi-agency approach to prolific offenders which prioritises them for targeted interventions and supports to address their behaviour and thus reduce crime and victimisation in local communities. Independent evaluations have found that the JARC pilots are helping to reduce both the frequency and severity of reoffending among their clients groups and indeed have helped many offenders to move away from criminality altogether.
I am confident that interventions of this nature will assist in continuing the positive downward trajectory in recidivism, as identified by the CSO’s most recent report.