8th June 2020
Extension of successful Bail Supervision Scheme which keeps children out of detention shows value of evidence-led initiatives – IPRT
The Bail Supervision Scheme keeps children and young people out of detention, helps children adhere to bail conditions, reduces reoffending, and reduces the use of custodial sanctions for children. Therefore, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the announcement today (8th June 2020) by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, of the Scheme’s extension to courts in Cork and Limerick. IPRT welcomes the scheme’s geographical extension, and calls on the Irish Youth Justice Service to now focus on adapting the successful scheme to ensure equity of service provision throughout the country and in particular, for harder-to-reach children and young people.
First introduced in Ireland in 2016, the Bail Supervision Scheme (BSS) offers courts an alternative to remand detention for children and young people by offering the court the possibility of granting bail with intensive supervision. It enables young people at high risk of bail denial to adhere to bail conditions and helps reduce potential reoffending through provision of wraparound 24/7 supports, including support to caregivers. Adaptations of the scheme for children in care are among the key actions included in the Draft Youth Justice Strategy 2020-2026.
Welcoming the extension of the BSS, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide stated:
“Children and young people should only ever be detained as a last resort, when all other avenues have been exhausted, and never for welfare reasons. The Bail Supervision Scheme has helped address Ireland’s overuse of remand detention for children, with better outcomes for everyone. This is the kind of innovative approach to justice that IPRT would like to see included the next Programme for Government.
"Crises in children’s lives don’t generally happen between 9 and 5, and the availability of the supports on a 24/7 basis plays a significant role in the success of the Bail Supervision Scheme, along with its focused, interagency approach that responds to the needs of the young person.
“The success of the Bail Supervision Scheme shows what can be achieved through evidence-led innovation. This scheme and the approaches it uses are supported by international and local research, data, and evidence on what works to address offending behaviour, support young people, and reduce dependence on remanding young people to custody. A formal evaluation of the scheme found that not only was there a marked reduction in reoffending in those who participated, but there were long-term positive outcomes for the young people, their families and their communities.”
A pilot of the BSS was formally evaluated by the Research Evidence into Policy Programmes and Practice (REPPP) in University of Limerick, and published by the Department of Children and Youth Affairs in December 2019. The evaluation found that on average, young people on the BSS had a reduction in re-offending twice that of the control group, and the majority of young people who completed the BSS fully adhered to bail conditions on exiting the scheme. Additionally, 85% of children who had completed the BSS received a non-custodial sanction at the sentencing hearing.
While today’s confirmed expansion of the scheme is welcome, IPRT believes that further proposals related to the BSS in the upcoming Youth Justice Strategy should be advanced. Ms Ní Chinnéide continued:
“Following the geographical extension of the scheme to courts in Limerick and Cork, resources need to be invested to ensure this successful evidence-based initiative is accessible to harder-to-reach groups, including children in care. Every effort must be made to ensure the scheme is accessible to all children who can benefit from it.
“While the extension of certain youth supports for young adults aged 18-24 has been proposed in the Draft Youth Justice Strategy, IPRT believes that a similar age-appropriate approach to bail supports should also be considered for young adults aged 18-24. International evidence and research show that supervised bail schemes work to reduce offending among this older age group too.”
Continued co-operation between agencies and departments will be necessary in ensuring the success of this expansion of the Bail Supervision Scheme. IPRT hopes that this expansion will positively impact the lives of a greater number of young people, families and communities across Ireland.
For further comment, please contact Pamela or Fíona at: 087 181 2990
NOTE FOR EDITORS:
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. See www.iprt.ie