Irish Penal Reform Trust

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.

Report on Education Inequality & Disadvantage and Barriers to Education

5th June 2019

The Joint Committee on Education and Skills has published the Report on Education Inequality & Disadvantage and Barriers to Education, following meetings with stakeholders in 2018, including IPRT.

Submission to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills on 'Education Inequality and Disadvantage'

1st February 2018

IPRT made a submission to the Joint Committee on Education and Skills, before appearing before the Committee on 6 February 2018.

UK: The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Transition to Adulthood (T2A), 'Judging Maturity: exploring the role of maturity in the sentencing of young adults'

18th July 2017

A new Report by The Howard League for Penal Reform and the Transition to Adulthood (T2A) Alliance calls on sentencing council to work towards developing formal sentencing principles for young adults, similar to the principles that are already in place for sentencing children.

The Howard League for Penal Reform: Ending the Criminalisation of Children in Care, Briefing One

12th July 2017

The Howard League for Penal Reform have released a brief, the first of a series to be published as part of a two-year programme to end the criminalisation of children living in residential care.

Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children

15th April 2016

The Howard League for Penal Reform has recently released a report "Criminal Care – Children’s Homes and Criminalising Children" on their research of how children living in children’s homes in England are being criminalised at excessively high rates compared to all other groups of children.

Irish Examiner: Teens being ‘criminalised’ while in care of the State

7th March 2016

Writing in the Irish Examiner, Jennifer Hough reports that Ireland's "most troubled teenagers are being criminalised while in the care of the State — arrested in the secure therapeutic centres aiming to stabilise and rehabilitate them."

IPRT supports: Hands Up for Children!

20th April 2015

IPRT is part of the Hands Up for Children campaign, which believes that smart investment in children is the best way to secure Ireland’s future.

Youth Advocate Programmes (Ireland) report on financial and social benefits of early intervention

4th July 2012

In 2011, Youth Advocate Programmes (YAP) provided successful cost-effective alternatives to foster or residential care for young people and their families, as well as facilitating improved school attendance, reduced risky behaviour and better co-operation with Gardai and Juvenile Liason Officers.

Homeless Truths: Children’s Experiences of Homelessness in Ireland

12th April 2012

The Ombudsman for Children has published a new report on a consultation carried out by the Office with children who have experienced homelessness.

UK: Speech therapy for young offenders may provide a way out of the system

8th February 2012

Speech and language therapist Ian Warriner works to treat speech and language defects in young offenders. The children often have problems with communication that have gone unidentified, and which may have contributed to their initial criminal behaviour.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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