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Question

1. Deputy Jim O'Callaghan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality if the findings of the recent study by the Central Statistics Office, CSO, on prison recidivism, which found that almost half of prisoners here went on to commit another offence within three years of their release, will be addressed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [40229/19]

Answer

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I thank the Deputy for the question.  Public safety is an absolute priority for me as Minister for Justice and Equality.  Working to reduce reoffending and minimising the risk of further harm to victims and society through the implementation of an effective and evidence-based penal policy is a key part of that task. I welcome the CSO's publication of last week's report, which is part of a series dealing with reoffending following imprisonment and probation interventions.  It should be noted that this study shows a significant decrease in prison recidivism and clearly demonstrates that recidivism rates are on a downward trend. 
The report covers a group of 1,000 offenders released from prison in 2011 and 2012 and follows them up to the end of 2014 and 2015, respectively. The recidivism rate stood at 55% in 2007, but the report shows it fell to 45.8% in 2012.  Overall, this represents a decrease of 9.3% over a period of five years.  I was also pleased to note that the CSO study published last June on offenders sentenced to probation also recorded noted significant reductions, with a drop of nearly 8% in reoffending rates recorded between 2008 and 2012.  The report shows that those sentenced to a community service order were less likely to reoffend than those sentenced to a probation order.  
I also particularly welcome the finding that community service continues to show very good outcomes. More than 350,000 hours of community service work were carried out around the country in 2018. This benefits communities nationwide and allows offenders a chance to make amends for their criminal actions in a tangible way. Moreover, the findings of the CSO's work clearly show that such orders can also help reduce reoffending rates among the individuals involved. While there is clearly scope for further improvement, this evidence is very positive overall. It means that more ex-offenders are turning their lives around and fewer are going on to reoffend, with all the negative consequences that brings for our communities.
I expect that future studies in this CSO series are likely to show a continuation of the downward trend.  Since 2015 a range of enhanced prisoner programmes aimed at reducing reoffending behavior have been introduced by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service.  These include targeting offenders with high recidivism rates, in particular through the joint agency response to crime, JARC. I wish to acknowledge the work of the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, in that regard. This initiative ensures a multi-agency approach to prolific offenders which prioritises them for targeted interventions in order to reduce crime and victimisation in local communities.  Independent evaluations have found that the JARC pilots are helping to reduce both the frequency and severity of reoffending among their clients groups.