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.

'Early Intervention Key to Curbing Crime' says Barnados. 3rd March 2008

The article outlines how leading charity Barnados describe the importance of early intervention measures as opposed to punishment. Read more

Irish Examiner: "State failing to tackle causes of youth crime" 4th December 2003

Budget cuts to the probation, prison education services and youth programmes reveal the Government's "deep indifference" to tackling the causes of crime, a juvenile justice group said last night. Read more

Understanding and preventing youth crime 30th April 1996 PDF documents

Tackling youth crime is now an imperative, according to a review by David Farrington of the Institute of Criminology, Cambridge. (Published by the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust.) Read more

Learn more