Minister Flanagan welcomes finding that 355,404 hours of community work were carried out by those serving Community Service Orders in 2018
· Probation Service also provided €16.7m in funding to a range of community based organisation in 2018
17 June 2019
The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has welcomed the finding that 355,404 hours of community service work were carried out around the country by those serving Community Service Orders in 2018. The work is highlighted in the 2018 Annual Report of the Probation Service, which the Minister is publishing today.
Minister Flanagan said: “The Community Service Order is a very valuable part of the criminal justice system, allowing an offender - where appropriate - to repay their debt to society by carrying out unpaid work in their community rather than by spending time behind bars. In 2018, over 350,000 hours of community service were carried out by offenders, benefiting communities nationwide and ensuring that qualifying offenders helped in a very real way to make amends for their criminal actions.”
A Community Service Order may be imposed by a Judge as an alternative to a prison sentence of 12 months or less for persons aged 16 years and over. The community-based sanction requires convicted offenders to perform supervised work as a sanction and to give back to the community. Under the legislation for Community Service Orders, a Judge may sentence an offender to between 40 and 240 hours work. Any Order made must be completed within a year. Community Service is a direct alternative to a prison sentence and an Order will only be made by the Judge where a custodial sentence has first been considered.
There were 2,449 Community Service Orders made in 2018, a more than 10% increase on the figure of 2,215 Orders made in 2017 and 18% increase on the 2,067 Orders made in 2016. The 2,499 Community Service Orders for 2018 totals 355,404 hours work in lieu of 1,054 years in prison. This equates to over €3 million worth of work for the benefit of communities nationwide.
Recognising the added value the voluntary and community sector plays in supporting desistence from offending, the Probation Service - through the Department of Justice and Equality - also provided funding of €16.732m in 2018 to a range of community-based organisations. These organisations, working alongside the Probation Service, provide a diverse range of services helping to address offender need and, in doing so, reduce the risk of reoffending and facilitate reintegration.
The Minister added: “All the Criminal Justice agencies share the goal of helping to create safer, fairer and more inclusive Communities. The Probation Service continues to perform a unique and invaluable role in this through offender rehabilitation and reintegration.”
Over the course of the year, the Probation Service prioritised its continued collaboration with the other criminal justice partners in order to further improve outcomes in the management, rehabilitation and reintegration of offenders and to reduce the risks of reoffending. This includes continued delivery of the Joint Agency Response to Crime (JARC), targeting identified prolific and high impact offenders. In 2018, almost 130 such offenders were managed across the nine JARC sites at any one time. Recognising the success of this multi-agency initiative, JARC received a Civil Service Award for Excellence and Innovation in November 2018.
The Director of the Probation Service, Vivian Geiran, said: “2018 was a productive year for the Probation Service. Interagency co-operation is a crucial component of our work. To be effective in reducing victimisation, we must continue this cooperative approach, while also strengthening the quality of the professional services we provide.”
As part of the progression of social enterprises initiatives, the Probation Service in conjunction with the Irish Prison Service also accessed €300,000 funding through the Dormant Accounts Disbursement Scheme 2017-2019. These funds have since been awarded to a number of community and voluntary organisations to enable employment using the social enterprise model.