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.

Support needed for teens leaving care 9th February 2010

Aftercare for those leaving care, will save the government money across many areas including the criminal justice system. Read more

Incredible Years Ireland Study 26th January 2010 PDF documents

A report on the key findings from a project evaluating the effectiveness of the Incredible Years Preschool/ Early School Years Parent Training programme as an intervention for Irish children (aged 3-7 years) with emotional and behavioural difficulties. Read more

Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment (England & Wales) 15th January 2010

A new report from a Commons select committee has identified that the current prison building programme is unsustainable, and the cash would be better spent on rehabilitation and prevention so as to cut crime. Read more

EUCPN: Preventing Crime and Victimisation among Children and Young People 5th January 2010 PDF documents

In December 2009, the European Crime Prevention Network (EUCPN) Conference took place in Stockholm with a focus on preventing crime and victimisation among children and young people. Read more

UK: 'Healthy Children, Safer Communities' 8th December 2009

A new cross-government strategy to promote the health and well-being of children and young people in contact with the youth justice system. Read more

New report: Preventing early conduct problems and reducing crime 23rd November 2009

A new UK report, 'The chance of a lifetime - Preventing early conduct problems and reducing crime', identifies that early-intervention programmes for young children could significantly lower crime levels. Read more

If we don’t invest in troubled kids now we’ll pay a very high price later 20th October 2009

Fergus Finlay's Opinion Piece in the Irish Examiner. Read more

Incredible Years: early intervention project in Ballymun 5th October 2009

On Morning Ireland this morning, Emma O'Kelly reported on a new intervention programme designed to reduce delinquency in young people. Read more

England & Wales: Spending cuts in justice system could reduce youth reoffending 29th September 2009

An article in the Guardian describes how cuts in the present justice system could reduce youth re-offending. Read more

Irish Examiner: "Children better behaved after parenting course" 21st September 2009

The Incredible Years programme has seen a "substantial improvement" in behaviour in 80%percent of children whose parents had attended the community parenting programme six months on. Read more