Dáil Éireann - Volume 632 - 22 February, 2007

Written Answers. - Recidivism Rate.

[502] Mr. Stagg asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform if his attention has been drawn to the findings of recent research undertaken by the UCD Institute of Criminology which found that more than a quarter of the State’s prisoners were back in jail within a year of their release; his views on this rate of recidivism; the steps he will take to deal with same; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [6847/07]

  Mr. McDowell: I welcome the findings of the recent research by the Institute of Criminology in University College Dublin to which the Deputy refers. I can inform the Deputy that the Researchers received the full co-operation of the Irish Prison Services in carrying out the research.

The findings are in line with international experience, and I understand that they may in fact be considered to fall in the mid to lower range internationally. I can assure the Deputy that every effort is being made by my Department to continue to address and reduce the rate of recidivism. 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 non-offending lives on release.

The Irish Prison Service is committed to helping prisoners to develop their sense of responsibility and encouraging those attitudes and skills which will assist them to return to society with the best chance of leading law abiding and self-supporting lives after release. The Irish Prison Service employs a number of means to encourage prisoners to bring about positive development within themselves, including:

individual and group counselling on offending issues;

programmes in the areas of education, vocational training and life-skills;

drug treatment;

specific programmes to address criminogenic factors (Thinking Skills, Anger Management and Sex Offenders Treatment Programmes);

one-to-one counselling and support; and

facilitating the involvement of voluntary organisations in providing appropriate prisoner support services.

These interventions are delivered by a wide range of specialist services that operate in the prison system, which include, psychologists, teachers, Probation Service and Prisons staff.

I wish to further advise the Deputy that a group to examine the elaboration of Positive Sen[503] tence Management has reported to the Director General of the Irish Prison Service. Their Report details a proposed model of sentence management based on multidisciplinary working. The National Development Plan also provides significant new funding for the implementation of this Report throughout the prison estate. This will involve a new orientation in the delivery of services to prisoners and a new emphasis on prisoners taking greater personal responsibility for their own development through active engagement with both specialist and non-specialist services in the prisons. The end result should be a prisoner-centred, multidisciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal setting and periodic review to measure progress. Central to this process will be a focus on reducing the risk of reoffending. Piloting of this project is ongoing in two prisons.

In addition to prison based programme for offenders, my Department through the Probation Service fund 65 voluntary bodies which provide a range of services to offenders in local communities, e.g. pre-industrial training and education, offender management programmes, residential accommodation, drug and alcohol abuse treatment/intervention/awareness programmes, work with offenders in custody and post release, as well as providing a vital ingredient of a focused day time programme for those found guilty of criminal offences by the courts and placed on supervision to the Probation Service. In 2007, the budget allocation for ‘Assistance to Voluntary Bodies’ to support Probation Service in the management of offenders in the community amounts to just over €24 m.

It may also be of interest to the Deputy to know that in preparing pre-sanction reports for the Courts, Probation Officers undertake an assessment of the risk posed to the public by an offender. As part of a policy of improving their service to the Courts and in line with other Probation and Correctional Services in other jurisdictions, the Probation Service has introduced a risk assessment tool known as the Level Of Service Inventory revised (LSI-R). This tool measures the risk of reoffending in each case and identifies the criminogenic factors that contribute to the offending, such as drug and alcohol misuse and can inform the appropriate intervention needed. I should also add that Risk Assessment tools are also in use in the prison system.