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New approach to offending by young adults aged 18-24 needed to address over-representation in prison population – IPRT

12th May 2015

MEDIA ADVISORY

Young adults aged 18-24 are more amenable to rehabilitation and change than older adults who commit the same crimes, but high rates of imprisonment and high reoffending rates on release from prison indicate that the penal system is failing too many young adults. The Irish Penal Reform Trust is calling on the Department of Justice and Equality to develop a discrete strategy for young adults aged 18–24 years who commit offences, grounded in evidence of what works to promote and support desistance from offending behaviour among this age group.

This is the core recommendation in a new report, Turnaround Youth: Young Adults (18–24) in the Criminal Justice System – the case for a distinct approach, which was published by the Irish Penal Reform Trust today (Tuesday 12th May 2015).

Supervised bail programmes, the extension of youth diversion programmes, restorative practices, and Garda training - which addresses how agency contact with young people can in some cases lead to an increase in offending behaviour - are among key recommended actions contained in the report, along with the need for targeted supports for this age group in the community, involving education, employment opportunities and housing.

Several factors put young adults more at risk of becoming involved in offending behaviour, including: a high level of mental health problems; higher levels of substance misuse; and a high prevalence rate of acquired brain injury.

Young adults who offend are also more likely to be unemployed, have experienced educational disadvantage, youth homelessness, or come from a history of serious disadvantage and adversity, including being the victim of crime, being engaged in self-harming behaviour and substance abuse, problematic family backgrounds and a history of mental health problems.

Deirdre Malone, Executive Director of IPRT, said:

"18 represents the peak age of offending but also the age of opportunity for diversion, desistance and development. Imprisonment simply warehouses and further compounds the problem of offending behaviour. The right interventions at the right time tackle the root causes of offending and make social and economic sense. Intelligent, robust intervention and support works."

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with speakers, please contact Fíona on: 087-181 2990

Key findings in the report:

  • Young adults are more amenable to rehabilitation and change than older adults who commit the same crimes
  • The brain and maturity continue to develop beyond adolescence and into one’s mid-twenties – the right interventions can support desistance but the wrong interventions can deepen offending behaviour
  • Young adults aged 18-24 are disproportionately represented in the prison population: 20% of prison population compared with 9% of general population
  • Young adults aged 18-24s have highest rates of reoffending on release from prison (68% compared with 53%)
  • Interventions and good practice that have proven successful in the youth justice system should be extended to young adults aged 18-24
  • Supervised bail support, diversion programmes, intensive community orders, and restorative justice practices are among the more effective responses to crimes committed by young adults 

Key Areas for Action:

  1. Transitions: Ensure that Goal 5 – ‘Support Effective Transitions’ of the Better Outcomes, Bright Futures National Policy Framework for Children & Young People 2014–2020, is properly resourced and fully implemented.
  2. Community: Resource initiatives in the community that aim to divert those at risk of becoming involved in offending behaviour away from criminal justice agencies and into mainstream services.
  3. Policing: Training of An Garda Síochána should promote best practices in dealing with young people and address how agency contact with young people can in some cases lead to an increase in offending behaviour.
  4. Bail: Supervised bail programmes and effective bail supports should be made widely available to minimise the use of pre-trial (remand) detention of young adults.
  5. Courts & Sentencing: In all cases, a young person’s age and level of maturity should be taken into account as a mitigating factor in determining a penalty.
  6. Detention: Prison should always be a sanction of last resort for young adults, particularly those convicted of non-violent offences.
  7. Alternatives: Robust non-custodial alternatives should be available to young adult offenders, including intensive community orders, restorative practices and the extension of youth justice diversion programmes to effectively tackle the root causes of offending and encourage desistance among young adults who offend.
  8. Rehabilitation: Young adults must be supported in their efforts to stop offending and become active citizens through provision of services including support with employment and education, stable accommodation and assistance to address drug and alcohol misuse.
 

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with speakers, please contact Fíona on: 087-181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. On Tuesday 12th May 2015,the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) published a new 36-page report which outlines the key actions necessary to address the over-representation of young adults in prison in Ireland. Turnaround Youth: Young Adults (18–24) in the Criminal Justice System – the case for a distinct approach is available for download online at: www.iprt.ie/iprt-publications

The Turnaround Youth research project received support from The Ireland Funds.

2. The report was launched as part of a seminar event, which took place in the Irish Film Institute, Eustace St, Dublin 2.

Speakers at the launch event were:

Respondents were:

  • Assistant Commissioner John Twomey, An Garda Siochána
  •  Ursula Fernée, Regional Manager, Young Persons Probation
  • Jane O’Neill, solicitor, Michael J Staines & Company.

3. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.

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