140. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the degree to which particular attention is paid to ensuring that first time offenders in prison are readily facilitated in terms of education and rehabilitation with a view to preventing them becoming involved in a lifetime of crime; if statistics are available to illustrate the benefits of the programme with particular reference to recidivism; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4659/19]
Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): I wish to advise the Deputy that the Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to those in custody including education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services. Engagement in such programmes offers purposeful activity to those in custody while serving their sentences and encourages offenders to lead law-abiding lives on release. These programmes are available in all prisons and all prisoners are eligible to use the services, including first-time offenders.
In addition, the Irish Prison Service has contracted the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) to provide two prison-based operational services, the Training & Employment Officer Service and the Resettlement Coordinator Service, both of which are aimed at assisting in reintegration and reducing reoffending.
The Training & Employment Officer and the individual prisoner work together to identify an improved pathway in life, away from a life of offending. This includes working to identify and remove any barriers that stand in the way of positive change, and setting out the necessary steps to achieving a new way of life. In practical terms, this means guiding people into employment or training and educational programmes that help the person realise their ultimate goals. This service is available in the Mountjoy Campus, the West Dublin Campus, Portlaoise, Midlands, Castlerea, and Shelton Abbey Open Centre.
In 2018, the prison-based Training & Employment Officers worked with prisoners and other services to place 114 prisoners in work or work experience, 195 prisoners in training or further education, and completed guidance and group work with another 106 prisoners. In 2018, the Training & Employment Officers engaged with 873 referred prisoners.
In addition the Irish Prison Service has contracted the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) to provide resettlement coordinators in each of our closed prisons to act as a central point of reference for prisoners and external agencies in the process of identifying suitable accommodation options prior to release. An additional post-release coordinator is provided to Cork Prison by the Cork Local Drug and Alcohol Task Force.
Resettlement coordinators take a case-management approach to intervening with a prisoner 9 to 12 months pre-release to commence planning for post-release supports, including amongst other functions, working with the individual in custody to submit housing, welfare and medical card applications well in advance of release.
While specific statistics are not available, evidence shows that addressing such factors as education, employment, housing, drug and alcohol misuse, attitudes and self control, institutionalisation and life skills contributes to reduced reoffending.
The latest data in relation to recidivism rates for offenders who were given a custodial sentence or community sanction is contained in the fourth set of recidivism studies published by the Central Statistics Office in November 2016.
There has been a continued reduction in the recidivism level for the cohort of prisoners released in 2010, these are the latest figures available on the Central Statistics Office website. The Prison Recidivism Studies for 2007, 2008 and 2009 showed a recidivism rate of 55%, 51% and 47.5% respectively. The overall figure for 2010 is 45.1% which represents a reduction of 10% since these studies commenced.
The Central Statistics Office are currently working on the studies for the cohort of people released in 2011 and 2012 and it is anticipated that these reports will be published in the next 6 months.