Irish Penal Reform Trust

Reintegration of Offenders

IPRT promotes rehabilitation and social integration as central concerns of Irish penal policy.

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. 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.

A Values Based Prison System: Spanish Delegate Visits Wheatfield Prison

3rd April 2012

GUEST BLOG: As part of a wider campaign to generate solutions to current social and economic problems in Ireland, Change Nation, an Ashoka initiative, hosted a visit by Spanish entrepreneur, Faustino Garcia Zapico on his idea of Units of Therapy and Education (UTE) and how this programme could be successfully applied in the Irish prison context.

US: Connecticut report released on rates of sex offender recidivism

26th March 2012

A study released in February 2012 by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management found that sex offenders released from prison in Connecticut are unlikely to return to prison for a new sex crime.

Feasibility Report into Circles of Support and Accountability (COSA) in Ireland

4th January 2012

This report, commissioned by the Probation Service, examines the use of Circles of Support and Accountability in jurisdictions where they are successfully operating and considers their feasibility in Ireland as a means of reintegrating sex offenders.

RSA 'Transitions' - An Alternative Model of a not-for-profit community prison.

8th November 2011

UK Charity, the Royal Society for the Encouragement of the Arts (RSA), sets out an alternative model of a not-for-profit community prison that would provide custody and rehabilitation services on a single site, working with between 500 and 700 people at any one time.

Garda Vetting and CAO applications

7th September 2011

Over 225 college courses offered through the CAO require Garda Vetting; in the absence of Spent Convictions legislation, this can present a potential barrier to those who may have committed a minor offence, no matter how long ago.

Storybook Dads: maintaining family bonds

10th August 2011

Storybook Dads is a project run in prisons which helps maintain the vital emotional bond between prisoners and their children by helping offenders to record bedtime stories on CDs and DVDs: "Keeping families together helps to reduce re-offending by up to six times."

The Social Reintegration of Ex-Prisoners in CoE Member States

28th June 2011

A report from the Quaker Council of European Affairs highlights different reintegration and rehabilitation practices for prisoners in all Council of Europe states including Ireland.

UK: Inside Job - Creating a market for real work in prison

13th June 2011

A new report from Policy Exchange outlines how prisoners who work a full 40-hour week could contribute to victim compensation, pay tax and establish a 'resettlement fund' for when they are released.

What's the risk?Employing Young Adults with Criminal Convictions

11th May 2011

A new study published today has acknowledged businesses in the UK which are actively trying to improve opportunities for offenders to get back into employment.

UK: UNLOCK submission to Breaking the Cycle

4th March 2011

UNLOCK, the National Association of Reformed Offenders (UK), has just published its response to the Green Paper on 'Breaking the Cycle'. A number of UNLOCK's recommendations are of interest as Ireland moves towards passing similar legislation.

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

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