17th November 2020
The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has published statistics on three-year reoffending (recidivism) for those sentenced to probation in 2014, in conjunction with one-year reoffending rates for the years 2008-2016. For more on how recidivism is measured by the CSO, visit the CSO website.
In the most recent cohort for which a three-year reoffending rate is available (2014), 47.2% of individuals committed at least one reoffence for which they received a conviction. The corresponding figure for the 2013 cohort was 45.4%.
The one-year indicator, first published in 2019, gives a more timely indicator of probation reoffending, but should be used in conjunction with the 3-year statistics to evaluate longer-term outcomes. This is important given that both national and international evidence has shown that reoffending is higher in the time period immediately following release, with rates of reoffending dropping significantly after a two-year period before reaching a point where little additional recidivism is observed. This was recently observed by Prof. Ian O’Donnell in An Evidence Review of Recidivism and Policy Responses published by the Department of Justice.
Data for 2016 indicates that the level of reoffending is higher among individuals sentenced to a Probation Order (34.1%) than those sentenced to a Community Service Order (28.3%). It is notable that Community Service Orders continue to show reduced reoffending outcomes, while also benefiting communities across the country. Statistics also show that of those under Post Release Supervision Order, 84% did not reoffend within one year. However, PRSOs are not directly comparable as they follow a period of imprisonment and are mostly associated with more serious offending.
Community safety and public confidence in the justice system are promoted by investment in what works to reduce crime. Given the sustained lower levels of reoffending among those sentenced to Community Service Orders compared to other sentencing options (both custodial and non-custodial), research needs to be undertaken into why this alternative continues to be underutilised by the judiciary. Community service schemes with transparent practices promote confidence from the public, judiciary and offenders in their effectiveness and legitimacy, which is essential to the ongoing viability of such schemes. Read more on this in IPRT’s research on the use of Community Service Orders in Ireland.
In line with international evidence, these CSO statistics find that reoffending that takes place within a year of a probation order mostly takes place within the first 6 months. In total, almost two-thirds (64.1%) of the reoffending take place during this period with the remaining 35.9% of offending occurring between six and twelve months of the probation order issue date.
The rate of reoffending by those sentenced to probation has historically been higher for males than females. IPRT has noted in recent years that the gap in the recidivism rate between genders is decreasing, with the reoffending rates within one year of entering probation between males (30.3%) and females (30.0%) now effectively equal. In order to better understand this pattern and respond effectively, reasons for this narrowing gap should be examined. Given the unique needs of women who offend, IPRT has previously called for mapping to determine the availability of gender-specific community sanctions across the country to examine whether the rehabilitative needs of women on probation nationwide are being effectively met. See PIPS 2019 Standard 32.1.
Reoffending rates do not exist in a vacuum. As well as the type of offence and the sentence received, various non-criminal justice factors impact on the likelihood of reoffending. One factor well-documented to protect against reoffending is the ability to secure meaningful employment after a conviction. With this in mind, these statistics should also be interpreted in conjunction with statistics published by the CSO earlier this year, which found that 59.7% of the surveyed cohort were in neither education nor employment 3 years following release from prison. The recent public consultation on spent convictions and the upcoming Working to Change - social enterprise and employment strategy 2021 – 2023 are key opportunities to reduce barriers and increase employment opportunities for people with convictions histories, and in turn reduce reoffending.
To view data on Prison Recidivism for the 2014 cohort – as well as an overview of data from 2008 to 2016 – click here.
For an infographic of the data, click here.
(Note: Statistics on recidivism by those sentenced to custody are published separately to the figures sentenced to probation. Given the differing nature/severity of the offence, as well as differences in categorisation, caution should be taken when comparing reoffending rates for those sentenced to custody versus those sentenced to probation. While not directly comparable, an overview of the most recently published statistics on prison recidivism is available here.)