Irish Penal Reform Trust

Prison recidivism 2015 cohort

25th June 2021

New figures published by the Central Statistics Office (CSO) find that almost 62% of people released from prison in 2015 re-offended within three years. Over three-quarters of this group (47.2%) re-offended within the first 12 months of their release from prison.

In response, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is calling for the Government to introduce a statutory obligation on housing, health, social protection, education, and employment to co-operate around prisoner release.

Responding to the figures, IPRT Legal and Public Affairs Manager Molly Joyce said:

“The figures published by the CSO today confirm what we already know: prison does not and cannot solve the homelessness, poverty, addictions, trauma and mental health issues that often underlie low-level offending. Instead of continuing to punish disadvantage, we need to see investment in addressing the root causes of offending, and in meaningful supports for people on release from prison.

“Specific issues facing people upon their release include a lack of suitable accommodation and a need for easier access to income support and employment activation. The ongoing housing crisis has been identified as particularly impacting people being released from prison, with the shortage of accommodation making it difficult to ensure that suitable accommodation to support reintegration and desistance from crime is made available.”

“We should draw upon the lessons learned at the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic, when we saw increased collaboration and joined-up planning on structured release programmes across agencies and community-based organisations.”

Commenting on the continued high re-offending rates for young adults, Molly continued:

“Over 4 out of 5 (83.6%) of those aged under 21 re-offended within 3 years of being released. This is not a surprise. We know that prison has a particularly recidivist effect on young adults aged under 21, and it is clear that we now need to look to alternatives. IPRT accordingly welcomes the commitment in the new Youth Justice Strategy 2021-2027 to explore diversionary alternatives and enhanced services specifically for those aged 18-24. What we need to see now, however, is sufficient resources and funding for these initiatives.”

Speaking on the protective factors that reduce re-offending, Molly concluded:

“We know that having a criminal record can act as a barrier to reintegration. IPRT accordingly welcomes the Government’s proposals to expand and strengthen existing spent convictions legislation, and urges that action is now taken to progress Senator Lynn Ruane’s Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 without further delay.”

The statistics published by the CSO show that the highest rates of re-offending were among those originally imprisoned for burglary (78.5%), damage to property (76.3%), theft (75.6%) and public order and social code offences (73.2). The highest number of subsequent offences of the 2015 cohort were for theft and related offences (344), public order offences (281), and road traffic offences (258).

Looking at one-year re-offending rates, people sentenced to prison for between three and six months prior to release in 2018 had the highest probability of re-offending within one year of release (61%). Legislation requiring judges to consider a community service order in lieu of sentences of less than 12 months has been in place since 2011, however, the numbers of people committed on short sentences remain high, with re-offending rates demonstrating that these short custodial sentences are not an effective response. IPRT welcomes the review by the Department of Justice on the impact of the Community Service (Amendment) Act 2011 and the use of short custodial sentences and gender impacts.

The CSO figures relate to people released from prison in 2015 when measuring 3-year re-offending rates and people released from prison in 2018 when measuring 1-year re-offending rates.

Read more on the CSO website here.

In the media:

  • RTÉ News at One: Playback is available from RTÉ here. (Expires afternoon 28/06/2021). Watch the segment of IPRT on Instagram here.
  • Midlands 103: IPRT Executive Director, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, joined Will to discuss the key issues and potential solutions. Playback from 53.44 here.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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