The Fifth Report of the Implementation Oversight Group to the Minister for Justice and Equality has been published by the Department of Justice and Equality and is available to read here.
The Penal Policy Review Group (PPRG) was established in 2012 to conduct a wide-ranging strategic review of penal policy. In their report, Strategic Review of Penal Policy, it was recommended that an implementation and oversight mechanism should be established to report on the progress of the PPRG’s recommendations arising out of the report. As a result, the Implementation Oversight Group was established in early 2015. The Group’s primary function is to report to the Minister on the implementation status of the recommendations made by the PPRG every six months.
While 43 recommendations were made by the PPRG originally, some of these have been highlighted as containing multiple elements and, as such, the Implementation Oversight Group decided that there were a total of 55 areas where progress could be assessed for the fifth report.
The mechanism used to categorise the assessment of the recommendations has been expanded to the use of an A-E scale. Of the 55 areas assessed within the fifth report, 3 are in the ‘A’ category, 17 are in the ‘B’ category, 14 are in the ‘C’ category, 20 are in the ‘D’ category and only 1 is in the ‘E’ category. As mentioned in the fourth report, recommendation 12, which refers to community service in lieu of part of a sentence of imprisonment in excess of one year on a statutory basis, is currently categorised under an ‘E’ grade and is an area which the relevant parties have agreed not to progress with.
Within each recommendation, milestones are used to assess and monitor progress. In this report, 211 milestones have been deemed as complete, which is a further increase on the 194 milestones noted in the fourth report.
The milestones that have been met specifically in the period covered by the fifth report include:
- The continuation of working towards establishing an independent Parole Board on a statutory basis;
- The enactment of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Act 2017;
- Expressions of interests prepared for the development of an open centre for women (recommendations 18 and 23);
- Commencement of work to support the improvement of data and the use of data in the criminal justice system to achieve a penal policy based on evidence and best practice; and
- Advancements being made in preventing crime and reoffending through the work of the Interagency Group for a Safer and Fairer Ireland.
One key issue highlighted by the Implementation and Oversight Group is in relation to recommendation 26 which focuses on the rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders through the provision of suitable accommodation, including step down accommodation. The Implementation and Oversight Group specifically refer to the “enduring and recurrent” hardship encountered when locating accommodation for people exiting prison, particularly those that are considered “high risk”.