The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has called on the incoming government to act on a study published yesterday (27 May) which showed that suspended sentences or community service can be more effective in reducing recidivism than short terms of imprisonment.
The report, prepared by Professor Ian O’Donnell from the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, at UCD School of Law, was commissioned by the Department of Justice and Equality as part of a commitment to support more evidence-informed policy making.
IPRT executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide (pictured) said investment in what actually works to reduce crime promotes community safety and public confidence in the justice system.
She said it was “critically important” that the new government maintain a commitment to evidence-led policy on criminal justice.
“This could be best demonstrated through prioritising the establishment of a consultative council, a key mechanism to advise on penal policy issues. This was a key recommendation in the cross-agency Strategic Review of Penal Policy in 2014,” she said.
Ms Ní Chinnéide referred in particular to the study’s finding of lower recidivism among those who are punished in the community instead of by receiving short-term custodial sentences.
“To improve the effectiveness of any non-custodial interventions in offending behaviour, there needs to be sustained investment in community supports, healthcare and housing. Basic needs need to be met in order to give people the best opportunity to desist from offending behaviour,” she said.
The IPRT also wants the new programme for government to include commitments to expand access to spent convictions, set up a cross-departmental task force on mental health and imprisonment, and invest in community-based sanctions and restorative justice.