Department of Justice and Equality publishes research report on recidivism and policy responses
- Report identifies a number of risk factors for increased recidivism include: young age at first offence; previous convictions; unemployment and substance abuse.
- Report highlights a significant treatment effect associated with cognitive behavioural interventions delivered both in community and custodial settings.
- Report also suggests that for those involved in substance misuse, public health-based harm-minimisation approaches appear to hold promise
27 May, 2020
The Department of Justice and Equality today launched the findings from an international evidence review on recidivism and policy responses.
The report, which was prepared by Prof. Ian O’Donnell from the Institute of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Law, University College Dublin is the third in a series of pieces of research that have been commissioned by the Research and Data Analytics unit and builds on the Department’s commitment to support the development of more evidence-informed policy making.
Recidivism refers to relapse of criminal behaviour, which can include a range of outcomes, including rearrests, reconviction, and reimprisonment. According to the most recent figures from the CSO, 45.8% of prisoners released in 2012 reoffended within three years of their release, while 43.3% of offenders managed by the Probation Service reoffended within three years (based on 2013 cohort).
With the aim of assisting policy formation in the department, the review sought to address a range of questions relating to:
(i) factors underpinning recidivist and prolific offending behaviour;
(ii) public policy interventions that tackle recidivism and prolific offending; and
(iii) effectiveness of these interventions and likelihood of successful transplantation to an Irish context.
Key findings of the report include the following:
- Suspended sentences or community service can be more effective in terms of reducing recidivism than short terms of imprisonment.
- Planned and structured early release, including parole, may reduce recidivism.
- Perception of fairness may have an impact on likelihood of recidivism. A perception of procedural unfairness can lead to alienation, resistance and noncompliance whereas a belief that one has been treated fairly may reduce the likelihood of future offending.
- There appears to be a significant treatment effect associated with cognitive behavioural interventions delivered both in community and custodial settings.
The review will constitute a valuable resource for researchers and act as a springboard for future empirical research on best practice in this area and provide a body of evidence essential to inform future policy discussions and development.
Secretary General of the Department of Justice & Equality, Aidan O’Driscoll, stated,
“As this report points out, knowing the characteristics of recidivism prone individuals or situations will allow interventions to be targeted with greater precision and confidence. This is not only to the advantage of the individuals concerned and their families, but also to the wider community.”
Mr. O’Driscoll continued,
“With this piece of work Prof. Ian O’Donnell has provided us with much food for thought regarding factors underpinning recidivistic offending behaviour; public policy interventions that tackle such behaviour; and the effectiveness of these interventions.”
The full report is available on the Department’s website here:
NOTES TO EDITORS
- This research report is the third in a series of releases to be disseminated by the Research and Data Analytics unit in the Department of Justice and Equality. The previous reports can be found here: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/Research_and_Data_Analytics
- This work builds on the Department’s commitment, outlined in the 2018-2020 Data and Research Strategy, to support the development of more evidence-informed policy making.
- Following a substantial Programme of Transformation throughout 2019, a new operating model has been implemented in the Department, increased capability in the Policy space will ensure that the Department is developing holistic, research-based long-term policy, through research and analysis from multiple sources. It will ensure that we are adopting a proactive and strategic view of Justice and Equality Policy formulation and review, providing “best-in-class” advice to Ministers and Government in the long-term interest of all citizens.
- Background information on authors/researchers of the report: Ian O'Donnell joined the School of Law at University College Dublin in 2000 and became Professor of Criminology in 2006. He completed a six-year term as Director of the UCD Institute of Criminology in December 2010. Previously, Professor O'Donnell was Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (1997-2000), Research Officer at the Oxford University Centre for Criminological Research (1992-1997), and Research Assistant at the University of London (1989-1992). His most recent books (both published by Oxford University Press) are Justice, Mercy, and Caprice: Clemency and the Death Penalty in Ireland (2017) and Prisoners, Solitude, and Time (2014).