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Crime Prevention

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 24 May 2022

Tuesday, 24 May 2022

Ceisteanna (67)

John Lahart

Ceist:

67. Deputy John Lahart asked the Minister for Justice the action that she is taking to tackle repeat offending; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [26071/22]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Justice)

As part of our work to ensure a coherent approach to enhancing and sustaining a more just and safe society, the Government committed to reviewing policy options for prison and penal reform. I intend to publish a Penal Policy Action Plan shortly which will set out the actions we will take according to timelines that will be published. Among the issues which will be looked at in the plan are the appropriate use of non-custodial sanctions and the role they can play in addressing criminality, reducing reoffending and providing protection to the public while holding the individual accountable.

Non-custodial penalties, particularly supervised community sanctions, play a significant and important role in addressing criminality, reducing reoffending and providing a degree of protection to the public. This is supported by Central Statistics Office figures on recidivism. 

The Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014 seeks to update the Probation of Offenders Act 1907. The aim of the Bill is to provide a modern statement of the law governing community sanctions, and the role of the Probation Service. It will facilitate the effective and efficient use of community sanctions by the courts, and will ensure that the courts have a wide range of appropriate options for dealing with persons who have committed minor offences.

Justice Plan for 2022 commits that the policy review of the General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014 will be completed in Q2 of this year. Once this review is complete, it is expected a revised General Scheme will be agreed in the Q3 of this year with the aim of publishing the Bill in Q4 2022.

The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to those in custody that aim to offer purposeful activity to prisoners while serving their sentences and encourage them to lead law abiding lives on release. 

The Prison Service Strategic Plan 2019 - 2022 commits to further develop the integration of prisoner care and support services to deliver more effective rehabilitation to prisoners. It aims to enhance sentence planning through Integrated Sentence Management to maximise the potential engagement of prisoners in constructive and structured activities during their time in custody.

The prisons Work and Training service make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to all those in custody. Work Training Officers have been appointed and assigned to areas such as catering, laundry, industrial cleaning and industrial skills.

The "Working to Change Social Enterprise and Employment Strategy 2021-2023" sets out my Department’s direction for supporting employment options for people with convictions by simultaneously working to remove systemic barriers so that people can make sustainable changes. It builds upon a solid foundation of employment supports already in place across the criminal justice sector and is a collaboration between the Prison and Probation Service and my Department.

The Joint Irish Prison Service/ETBI Education Strategy 2019 – 2022 commits to the provision of broad based education. The Department of Education and Skills provides an allocation of 220 whole time teacher equivalents to the Service.  The focus is on providing education which is quality assured, student centred and which facilitates lifelong learning.

As well as seeking to draw on best practice in adult and further education in the community, curriculum development that is specific to prison circumstances have taken place, such as courses on addiction, health issues and offending behaviour. Other areas where there has been significant progress in prison education are in physical education, in the provision for higher education, in the arts, in preparing prisoners for release and supporting their transition to life, and often to education, on the outside. 

We also know that substance abuse is an indicator of an increased likelihood of recidivism.

To look at how we address this, last April, together with the Minister for Health and Ministers of State Frank Feighan and Mary Butler, I established a High Level Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of persons interacting with the criminal justice system. 

In recognition of the need for a cross-Government approach to meeting the complex needs of such people, the Taskforce comprises representatives from a wide cross section of health agencies, the Justice sector and other relevant stakeholders. I am very pleased with the progress made by the Taskforce to date - they submitted an interim report to Minister Donnelly and I in November 2021 and we now expect to receive the final report and high level implementation plan for their recommendations in the coming weeks.

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