IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Reintegration of Offenders

Prison represents a serious restriction on the rights of the prisoner, quite apart from the deprivation of liberty. Incarceration often damages the prisoner’s social functioning, therefore contributing to his or her return to offending following release. Studies have shown that imprisonment has a damaging effect on the mental health of the prisoners, and can impair the ability to function in the outside world; prisoners can become institutionalised and therefore unable to live outside of the prison environment.

Imprisonment also carries with it profound negative social impacts on the prisoner’s family and on his or her community, and often the consequences of even a short period of imprisonment are permanent for both the prisoner and those close to him. Losing contact with family, employment and social or community services and networks, even for a short period, can have long-lasting negative effects. Research has shown that those communities to which most ex-prisoners return are those characterised by high levels of deprivation and least able to cope with their re-entry. IPRT believes that imprisonment can exacerbate such difficulties within such communities.

In this context, IPRT believes that appropriate preparation for release and post-release support play an important role in the successful return of former prisoners to their families, communities and the wider society. Two elements should always be considered: preparation during the course of the sentence (‘sentence-planning’) and coordinated support post-release. Preparation for release while still in prison should consider not only equipping prisoners with essential skills (such as work skills), but should also include making connections with the prisoner’s family and/or community outside of the prison environment, for example through the use of periods of temporary release.

IPRT believes that post-release support is crucial in the successful re-integration, and should link the former prisoner not only with potential employment opportunities but also with appropriate services in the community, for example with mental health services or substance abuse support groups. It should also consider support for prisoners’ families.

UK: Charities say computers can transform prisoner rehabilitation – new report: 29th October 2013

The Prison Reform Trust and Prisoners Education Trust have launched a joint report, arguing that controlled internet access can improve prisoners' outcomes in education, family contact, resettlement between prisons and recidivism. Read more

'The Prison Trap': Irish Times series on prison and mental health 17th September 2013

'The Irish Times' investigates how people with mental illness come into contact with the criminal justice system, tracing the cycle of criminalisation and undiagnosed mental health problems. Read more

US: Evaluating the Effectiveness of Correctional Education 27th August 2013

A new research report by the RAND Corporation has found that engagement with educational and vocational programmes in prison reduces recidivism and increases the likelihood of employment post-release. Read more

Report published on recidivism rates in Ireland 30th May 2013

Minister Shatter has published the joint Irish Prison Service and Central Statistics Office Recidivism Study 2013 – the first of its kind in the Republic of Ireland. Read more

UK Arts Alliance launches online library of resources: The Evidence Library 23rd April 2013

Online library of research and evaluation of the arts in the criminal justice system launched in November 2012 by Arts Alliance in the UK. Read more

UK: Community management of sexual offenders - What works? 1st October 2012 PDF documents

This short article examines effective strategies for managing sexual offenders in this community. Read more

UK: Out for Good – Taking Responsibility for Resettlement 5th September 2012

The Prison Reform Trust, supported by the Pilgrim Trust, has conducted applied research drawing largely on the views and experience of prisoners to determine what makes for effective resettlement post-release. Their report was published today. Read more

The role of sport in prisons: education, motivation and reintegration. 20th August 2012

A Prisoners Education Trust (UK) report indicates that sports in prisons offer opportunities beyond 'just the gym'. Read more

Urgent need for pre-release scheme for life sentenced prisoners in Northern Ireland 9th July 2012

Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland calls for the development of a step-down facility and pre-release scheme for life sentenced prisoners. Read more

UK: Integrated Offender Management - Effective alternatives to short sentences 4th July 2012

Integrated Offender Management (UK) initiative outlines effective strategies to address multiple barriers facing short-sentence prisoners. Read more

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