Irish Penal Reform Trust

Evaluation of three J-ARC pilot projects

25th September 2018

A programme aimed at tackling repeat offending behaviours has had successful results in three pilot projects in Dublin, and it is recommended that it be extended across the country. The Joint Agency Response to Crime (‘J-ARC’) Evaluation Working Group has carried out a desktop evaluation of the effectiveness of three pilot projects – ‘ACER3’, ‘STRIVE’ and ‘Change Works’ – which use a coordinated approach to preventing crime and increasing public safety as part of a wider J-ARC strategy.

The evaluation, Critical review of initial evaluations on the three J-ARC pilot projects, found that up to 37% of participants did not re-offend over a period of almost two years. The report also found that where participants did re-offend, there was a reduction in the severity and number of the offences.

The programme was run by An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service, and was supported by the Department of Justice and Equality.  Almost 100 participants, across three pilot projects, the STRIVE project in Ballymun, the ACER3 project based at Kevin Street and Tallaght Garda stations, and the Change Works project across the Dublin Metropolitan Region, were involved in the programme. The programme targeted recidivist and repeat offenders, involved in violent crime, burglary, and other offences.

The ACER3 programme reported that along with 15% of participants not reoffending within the period from May 2015 to December 2016, 45% of participants had partially desisted from offending. This particular programme targeted burglary offences, and there was a reduction of 37% in the number of burglaries committed by participants.

The STRIVE project targeted the most prolific offenders in its area. 28% of participants did not re-offend over a two year period. They also reported a decrease of almost 50% in the number of burglaries committed in the area in which the project was operating, compared with a decrease of nearly 40% for the rest of Ballymun. The STRIVE area also saw reductions in arson of 57%, while there was a small increase in the rest of Ballymun. Figures for criminal damage, public order offences, simple possession, and property crime had also decreased more significantly in the STRIVE area. 

The latest CSO figures relating to recidivism suggest that 35% of offenders who leave prison will be reconvicted within the first year. However, this does not take into account the type of offending. Offenders who commit offences such as burglary, public order, and drugs offences have a much higher likelihood of reoffending. Taking this into account, a more accurate reoffending figure for participants such as those involved in these programmes would be 58%. This indicates that the J-ARC programme appears to be performing well. 

There were a number of limitations of the projects noted in the report. The data was not gathered in a consistent manner, making a comparison between the projects difficult. There was also no common basis for evaluation between the projects, and the group sizes involved were small. It was suggested that for future implementation of the project, a larger cohort would be beneficial, and a common basis for data collection should be established.

While it is difficult to draw definitive conclusions given the relatively small numbers of participants and short measurement timeframes, the initial indications are that the pilot programmes have helped to reduce both the frequency and severity of reoffending and, furthermore, have helped some participants to move completely away from crime.

For further information on the outcomes of the pilot projects and recommendations, read the evaluation here.

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