Radically Reducing Reoffending
These are the top five reasons why:
1 To reduce levels of crime
Reducing levels of crime 45.8% of adults who have been released from custody in Northern Ireland will reoffend within 12 months. This contributes to a significantly higher crime rate combined with those who are first time offenders.
Engaging offenders in a throughcare programme, such as the NIACRO model of JobTrack, reduces the number of those reoffending by up to 24%. This programme worked to increase the employability of people who had offended based on evidence that links unemployment to offending behaviour. This programme also served to reduce the unemployment rate in Northern Ireland. More information on JobTrack is available here.
2 To increase public safety
Keeping the public safe is arguably the first duty of the Criminal Justice system. To build a fair and safe society based on the rule of law, we must not only punish those who commit violent and dangerous crimes but crucially provide those who offend with every opportunity to reform to prevent further crime. These two factors will not only increase public safety but also increase the perception of public safety.
NIACRO, in partnership with the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI) and funded by the NI Executive’s Change Fund, introduced the Reset programme in 2015. The programme is an intensive rehabilitation and resettlement project which begins to work with offenders four weeks prior to release from prison and up to 12 weeks after release. More information on Reset is available here.
3 The cost to the public purse
It costs around £58,000 per year to keep a person in prison in Northern Ireland. The wasted potential of those who have offended and who truly want to reform is also a huge contribution cost to the NI economy. A social value impact assessment on Jobtrack concluded that for every £1 invested in Jobtrack, £13.60 was generated in social value.
4 To reduce the prison population
The average daily prison population has been increasing since 2011. Given the expense of keeping a person in prison, investments should be made to ensure that person does not reoffend and can go on to contribute to society in a positive way.
NIACRO argues that as well as focusing on reducing reoffending, the Executive should pursue alternatives to prosecution for low level offending. NIACRO are not convinced that imposing a fine or short custodial sentence for a minor offence always has the desired outcome of reudcing the risk of that person repeating their actions in the future. Instead, NIACRO believes they should be offered an early intervention programme that will address their behaviour. The Executive should call on the Assembly to commit to exploring more effective (and cost effective) disposals which will contribute to a reduction in offending, a reduction in Court caseloads, and a reduction in cost to the public purse. For more information, please see NIACRO's Manifesto.
5 To fully implement a rehabilitative approach to crime.
David Ford stated told the Assembly in February 2016, ‘I have often said that people are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment…we have done much in recent years to ensure that we use the time that people spend in prison to address the types of behaviour that put them in prison, to rehabilitate them and prepare them for return to society.’
Following a punishment for a crime, it is imperative to provide the opportunity for offenders who have served their sentence a fair chance of accessing employment, housing and other life opportunities. There is clear political will for this model given David Ford’s statement and there are clear opportunities to increase public safety, reduce levels of crime, reduce public spending and reduce the prison population.