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.

UK report highlights need for emphasis on children's health 16th September 2010

An NHS-commissioned report released this month is critical of the low priority of children's health services and called for integration with education and social services spending in order to promote children's well-being. Read more

Punishing Disadvantage: a profile of children in custody 14th September 2010

A new report from the Prison Reform Trust and the Institute for Criminal Policy Research provides compelling evidence for the existence of pathways from disadvantage to the prison. Read more

UK: A Joint Inspection of Youth Crime Prevention (report) 9th September 2010

HMI Constabulary, HMI Probation, Care Quality Commission and Healthcare Inspectorate Wales have produced a report entitled 'A Joint Inspection of Youth Crime Prevention'. The report reveals a number of positive findings but also emphasises that the work to turn children away from crime needs to be more focused. Read more

Collaboration with Courts: Reducing Imprisonment Rates for Young People 7th September 2010

Children and Young People Now reports on some youth justice schemes in England which are successfully reducing the number of young people imprisoned. Read more

Irish Times: Poverty, Education, Mental Health and Homelessness 7th September 2010

The Irish Times highlights issues which will take centre stage at the upcoming 'Shifting Focus' conference. Read more

Catch 22: Crime Prevention 6th September 2010

Catch-22, a charity devoted to working with children in need, presents its views on youth offending and what really works. Read more

Report: Promoting and protecting offenders’mental health and wellbeing 24th August 2010

(England & Wales) A newly published policy document shows that there is a link between mental illness and offending that cannot be ignored; the paper sets forth a nuanced agenda for policy changes that can tackle this underlying cause of crime. Read more

England & Wales: Government launches review into the effectiveness of early intervention 28th July 2010

The government has launched an independent review into how early intervention projects can improve the lives of the UK's most vulnerable children. Read more

England & Wales: New report urges greater use of restorative justice in reducing youth offending 15th July 2010

Restorative justice crucial to making a fresh start in tackling youth crime, according to a new report. ‘Time for a Fresh Start’ is the result of the first-ever independent inquiry into youth crime and antisocial behaviour. Read more

England & Wales: New report on tackling gang membership 23rd June 2010

A new report, published today, by the three independent inspectorates for prisons, probation and police, has revealed a "patchy and, at times, counterproductive" approach to tackling gang membership among children. Read more