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Connolly, Johnny (2013) Research on recidivism. Drugnet Ireland, Issue 47, Autumn 2013, pp. 33-34.

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The Probation Service and the Central Statistics Office (CSO) established a partnership to conduct research on recidivism and related issues among offenders on supervision in the community. The report was published in November 2012.1 The first of its kind in Ireland, the study was based on anonymised offender and offence information relating to a 2007 cohort of offenders on the Probation Service supervision database. The study reports on recidivism within two years among that cohort, and on a four-year follow-up based on recorded crime and Court Service data held by the CSO. The study also examines variations in recidivism relating to type of original order, gender and age of the offender, category of original offence and of the subsequent offence.  

The study provides an overview of community sanctions and their outcomes. The report lists some of its main findings: 
°       Almost 63% of offenders on Probation Service supervision had no conviction for a further offence committed within two years of the imposition of a Probation or Community Service order. The overall recidivism of offenders in the study was 37.2%.
°       Reoffending was twice as likely to occur in the first rather than the second twelve months.
°       The recidivism rate decreased as offender age increased.
°       Male offenders represented 86% of the total population and had a higher recidivism rate than female offenders.
°       Public Order was the most common original offence and these offenders had the highest recidivism rate.
°       The three most common offences for which offenders were reconvicted were the same as the three most common original offences: Public Order, Theft and Drugs. (p.2)
The Irish Prison Service (IPS), in partnership with the CSO, also published a report on recidivism rates among ex-prisoners in Ireland.2 The report, published in May 2013, is a study of recidivism among 7,701 prisoners released on completion of a sentence in 2007, using re-conviction data up to the end of 2010. The study also assesses variations in recidivism based on the age and gender of the offender, as well as the category of both the original and subsequent offences.
The IPS study is not comparable to the Probation study described above, which was based on a two-year period for reoffending and excluded a number of offence types. However, while the Probation study showed a recidivism rate of 37.2% within two years of the imposition of a probation or community service order, the IPS study showed a recidivism rate of 58.3% within two years of the completion of a prison sentence.
The IPS report sets out the findings of the study (pp.9–15), including the following: 
°          The overall recidivism rate of offenders within three years was 62.3%.
°          Two thirds of re-offences occurred within six months of release. Over 80% of re-offending occurred within 12 months of release.
°          Males made up 92% of the total population studied and had a higher recidivism rate than females (63% as opposed to 57%).
°          The recidivism rate decreased as the offender age increased. While 68.5% of those under 21 years of age re-offended, the rate fell to 38.6% for the 51–60-year age group.
°          The highest rate of recidivism was among those who had served a sentence for burglary and related offences (79.5%).
°          The most common offence for which offenders were re-convicted was Public Order (1,281 or 27%).
°          Almost 27% were reconvicted of the same offence; more than 34% of theft offenders committed a further theft offence.
°          More than 20% of drug offenders committed a further drug offence.
The report concludes with the unsurprising observation:  
For the majority of those incarcerated, similar criminogenic needs and risks exist. …Lack of employment, abuse of alcohol and drugs, anti-social attitudes and companions, emotional and personal difficulties, poor educational achievement, family problems and lack of housing. (p.18)  
The authors question whether it is reasonable, given the complexity of the problems many prisoners have, to expect the IPS or the criminal justice system to provide solutions in terms of reintegration. They conclude, ‘If we are to really succeed in reconnecting offenders back to their communities, then we must devise a model which involves a multiplicity of state, community and voluntary agencies working in partnership on behalf of individual communities to bring about real change’ (p. 19).
The IPS and the Probation Service, in partnership with the CSO, intend to jointly publish annual recidivism figures. Consistent with this new partnership approach, the services have agreed a joint service strategic plan for 2013–2015.3 Included in this are measures aimed at enhancing sentence management from pre- to post-imprisonment in a way which will ‘facilitate improved prisoner outcomes’, and at enhancing the roll-out of the Community Return scheme (p.3).
The Community Return scheme is a joint Probation Service and IPS initiative whereby selected prisoners are granted temporary release on condition they perform unpaid supervised work in the community. Prisoners serving sentences of between one and eight years who have completed at least half their sentence are eligible. According to the 2012 annual report of the Probation Service4: ‘A pilot programme commenced in October 2011 and a total of 365 offenders were released on to the scheme between that time and the end of 2012’ (p.9). The scheme had a 90% compliance rate in 2012. By the end of 2012, 221 offenders had completed their allocated work, with approximately 10% (37) being returned to custody for non-compliance. The scheme involves a ‘two-strike’ rule whereby, if offenders fail to attend or are late for work on two separate occasions, they are regarded as in breach of the rules governing the scheme and are returned to custody to complete the entire balance of their sentence. According to the Probation Service 2012 annual report:4
The experience of all concerned has been very positive and many Community Return participants have been commended for their work ethic, punctuality and commitment. Initial feedback from the participants has also been positive with many commenting on the supports and structure it gives them on their release and how it has assisted in their transition back into
the community. (p. 9)  
1.     Probation Service (2012) Probation Service recidivism study 2007–2011. Dublin: Probation Service. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/20385
2.     Irish Prison Service and Central Statistics Office (2013) Irish Prison Service recidivism study 2013. Dublin: Irish Prison Service. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19942
3.     Irish Prison Service and Probation Service (2013) Joint Irish Prison Service & Probation Service strategic plan 2013–2015. Longford: Irish Prison Service & Probation Service. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19935
4.     Probation Service (2013) The Probation Service annual report 2012. Dublin: Probation Service. www.drugsandalcohol.ie/19936
Item Type
Publication Type
Irish-related, Open Access, Article
Drug Type
All substances
Intervention Type
Crime prevention
Issue Title
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
October 2013
Page Range
pp. 33-34
Health Research Board
Issue 47, Autumn 2013
Accession Number
HRB (Electronic Only)

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