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: 'Criminalising young people is counterproductive' 21st June 2010

In an article in the New Statesman, Rod Morgan, former chair of the Youth Justice Board, argues that criminalising young people is counterproductive and creates lifelong offenders. Instead, what is needed is a complete overhaul of youth justice. Read more

Sunday Tribune: €500k a year each to house troubled teens 23rd May 2010

The levels of funding for Children Detention Schools should be matched for prevention and early intervention schemes. Read more

Never Too Late: Public Attitudes to Juvenile Rehabilitation 22nd April 2010 PDF documents

US research reveals more positive attitudes to juvenile rehabilitation than expected. Read more

The Crime Report: Justice Reinvestment 20th April 2010

An article in The Crime Report offers an overview of the current status of the justice reinvestment movement in the U.S. Read more

ESRI Report: 1 in 6 Drop Out Before Leaving Certificate 15th April 2010

A new report released today shows alarming numbers of children leaving school without completing Leaving Certificate examinations. Read more

Guardian: Spending Early on Children in Care 31st March 2010

The complex needs of children in care - why investing in their future is investing in our own. Read more

UK: Cross-party Committee Report on Crime Prevention 23rd March 2010

A new report by the cross-party Home Affairs Committee has called on the government to place more emphasis on early intervention when it comes to dealing with potential young offenders. Read more

UK: Investors to Pay for Prisoner Rehabilitation 19th March 2010

The Guardian reports on a new initiative which will see private investors pay for a project to rehabilitate prisoners and receive a return on their money if reoffending rates drop. Read more

Scotland: Police Chief calls for radical overhaul of community sentences 19th February 2010

Chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, calls for a radical change in way the system as a whole works to prevent crime rather than simply mop up the aftermath. Read more

Guardian: Where's the victim support for troubled perpetrators? 17th February 2010

A Guardian article highlights the familiar story that many young offenders are themselves victims. Read more