8th November 2019
Bail Supervision Scheme Recognised by Community Corrections Award and Extended by DCYA
In November 2016, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs (DCYA) commissioned social justice charity Extern to operate a pilot initiative, the Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS). The scheme gives judges the option of granting bail with intensive supervision in the community, rather than detaining children in Oberstown Children’s Detention Centre on remand.
The BSS is a collaborative pilot involving multiple State agencies; the DCYA, the Irish Youth Justice Service, An Garda Síochána, the Probation Service, the Courts Service, TUSLA, and Oberstown Children’s Detention Campus. From its inception in 2016 to August 2019, the BSS dealt with 57 cases referred from the Children Court in Smithfield, Dublin (Court 55) and Oberstown. Among other criteria, referrals had to be 12-17 year olds living within a 20-mile radius of Dublin.
The initial findings from the pilot were presented at an ACJRD conference in September 2019. A full report by the REPPP project at the University of Limerick will be published in December 2019. The initial evaluation of the pilot revealed that 96% of the young people involved in the pilot were male, 75% had issues with substance misuse, 61% had been charged with violent crimes, and almost 50% had mental health concerns. Furthermore, 50% had experienced significant family loss or separation. Caregivers also presented with complex social and emotional needs.
The BSS incorporates Multi-Systemic Therapy (MST), an evidence-based model that aims to promote positive social behaviour in young people. The scheme currently consists of one MST Supervisor and three MST therapists. MST empowers families to be a part of addressing the offending behaviour and meeting the needs of the young person. Treatment typically lasts between three to five months. MST is home and community based rather than office based, and takes a holistic approach. Families can access support 24/7.
The initial findings demonstrate that the BSS helps young people adhere to bail conditions and reduce reoffending. It encourages young people to make positive changes to their behaviour. Goals achieved during the supervision were often simple but effective, for example, ensuring the young person had their own space at home and increasing pro-social engagement with peers. The majority of young people went on to receive non-custodial sanctions when their case was heard in court.
Extern’s work on the BSS has been recognised by the International Corrections and Prisons Association (ICPA). At the ICPA 2019 congress in October, Extern were awarded the Community Corrections Award for “exceptional work and innovative approaches in supporting offenders in the community”. The Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone, has provided €800,000 of additional funding for the BSS as part of the 2020 Budget. This will allow for the roll out of the scheme to other parts of the country.