IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Prevention and Early Intervention

Crime cannot be viewed as a social problem in isolation from deeper social and economic issues. Understanding and responding to offending behaviour is a complex issue. There is no one ‘cause’ and no single solution; consequently one-dimensional approaches are unlikely to produce results. Currently, the Irish criminal justice system is spending increasing and wasteful amounts of scarce resources with poor results in reducing crime, when modest investments in under-resourced communities would have greater positive effects in reducing offending, as well as producing wider social benefits.

To this end, IPRT is campaigning for a shift in justice resources to prevention and early intervention, in other words: "Shifting Focus: from Criminal Justice to Social Justice."

The case for this shift is strong: as the exhaustive work of bodies like the Washington State Institute for Public Policy shows, there are endless benefits to be gained from taking more constructive approaches to both adult and youth offending. A focus on the underlying difficulties – mental health, addiction, educational disadvantage, poverty – is demonstrably more likely to be effective in addressing the dreadful human cost of crime.

Moreover, against the backdrop of enormous, increasing and endless expenditure on prisons and the criminal justice system as a whole, the case for shifting even a proportion of these resources to a social justice model is undeniable – especially when coupled with the ineffectiveness of the current approach. As research has shown, when specific programmes reduce offending, as well as lessening the social harm of crime, they also save money for the State.

Shifting Focus_coverWe have been gathering the proof that prevention and early intervention works here.

See also our Shifting Focus campaign section.

Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children 15th April 2016

The Howard League for Penal Reform has recently released a report "Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children" on their research of how children living in children’s homes in England are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to all other groups of children. Read more

Irish Examiner: Teens being ‘criminalised’ while in care of the State 7th March 2016

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Jennifer Hough reports that Ireland's "most troubled teenagers are being criminalised while in the care of the State — arrested in the secure therapeutic centres aiming to stabilise and rehabilitate them." Read more

IPRT supports: Hands Up for Children! 20th April 2015

IPRT is part of the Hands Up for Children campaign, which believes that smart investment in children is the best way to secure Ireland’s future. Read more

Youth Advocate Programmes (Ireland) report on financial and social benefits of early intervention 4th July 2012

In 2011, Youth Advocate Programmes (YAP) provided successful cost-effective alternatives to foster or residential care for young people and their families, as well as facilitating improved school attendance, reduced risky behaviour and better co-operation with Gardai and Juvenile Liason Officers. Read more

Homeless Truths: Children’s Experiences of Homelessness in Ireland 12th April 2012

The Ombudsman for Children has published a new report on a consultation carried out by the Office with children who have experienced homelessness. Read more

UK: Speech therapy for young offenders may provide a way out of the system 8th February 2012

Speech and language therapist Ian Warriner works to treat speech and language defects in young offenders. The children often have problems with communication that have gone unidentified, and which may have contributed to their initial criminal behaviour. Read more

Punishing cuts to preventative services will exacerbate unfairness of criminal justice system, warns IPRT 2nd February 2012

MEDIA ADVISORY: Ireland’s system of punishment impacts disproportionately on socially excluded communities, and cuts to key preventative services in the community will exacerbate crime rates. Instead, Government must ring-fence resources for policy interventions that address social marginalisation, and thereby reduce crime. Read more

UK: 'Looked After Children and Offending: Reducing Risk and Promoting Resilience' 17th January 2012

A new report by The Adolescent and Children's Trust (TACT) and the Centre for the Research on the Child and the Family at the University of East Anglia looks at the correlation between children in care and offending. Read more

UK: Programme Reducing Gang Violence in Glasgow 5th July 2011

A co-ordinated programme between community, police and other groups in Glasgow has significantly reduced gang violence according to a new report released by the Violence Reduction Unity in the UK. Read more

'What's Working for Children' conference highlights prevention and early intervention 12th May 2011

Speakers at the 'Whats Working for Children' conference emphasised that early intervention and evidence-based programmes are key to improving outcomes for at-risk children and saving money for the taxpayer in the longer term Read more