218. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the extent to which any pattern has been observed in the rate of repeat offences by first-time offenders, as compared with those who have already committed to a life of crime; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [35738/15]


Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): Although there is no certain indicator that separates those "already committed to a life of crime" from others who desist from crime early on there are identifiable risk factors. It is a feature of offending behaviour that recidivism rates decrease as the offender age increases. Research on desistance from offending has found that there are different paths to change and desistance from offending that can be prompted, implemented and supported. The community return scheme is a good example of how a structured programme of release for offenders can assist them to change by providing the opportunity to pay back to the community in the form of unpaid productive work and by providing the necessary individual supports.
There is evidence to show that the right interventions at the right points of time can successfully lead to a reduction in the offending rate among young adults. Therefore the Probation Service and Irish Prison Service together with the Irish Youth Justice Service (IYJS) have adopted a distinct policy for 18-21 year olds. The Garda Youth Diversion programme is a successful example of diverting young people away from crime.
I published the Report of the Penal Policy Review Group in early September 2014. The report proposes the adoption of a penal policy with the dual purposes of punishment and rehabilitation both in the imposition and management of criminal sanctions. The Review Group identified rehabilitation and reintegration as a core principle and significant factor in reducing crime and considered that such aims are best achieved in a non-custodial environment as far as possible.
The Deputy will be aware that the Central Statistics Office (CSO) in partnership with the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service has published a number of studies on recidivism rates for offenders who were given a community sanction or a custodial sentence in recent years. The next recidivism studies are expected to be published before the end of this year. These studies, along with the implementation of the recommendations of the Penal Policy Review Group, will help to inform future policy on the management of offenders and will facilitate the formulation of strategies aimed at reducing recidivism.