Inspectorate publishes report on impact of prisoner recalls on the criminal justice system
Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJI) has today (30 June 2016) published a report on the impact of prisoner recalls on the criminal justice system in Northern Ireland.
The report examined how the prisoner recall system operated and sought to balance the need to provide offenders released on licence with the opportunity to make a fresh start, with the requirement to effectively manage the risk of further offending and maintaining public safety.
"This inspection report has shown that offenders who have attempted to deal with their offending behaviour while in prison and are released on licence, can through engagement with probation staff and the support of family, friends and their community, move on and contribute positively to society," said Brendan McGuigan, Chief Inspector of Criminal Justice in Northern Ireland.
"However, others who do not address their offending behaviour, experience mental illness, have limited family support, poor life skills or education and may face homelessness, alcohol or drug addiction, struggle to keep from reoffending or breaching their parole or licence conditions and are recalled to custody.
"At one level recall can been seen as a failure or setback in the rehabilitation process and efforts to reduce reoffending. But it is also an effective intervention when an offender's behaviour means supervision in the community is no longer deemed safe, or there is an increase in the risk of further offences being committed," said Mr McGuigan.
In this respect Inspectors found the processes currently in place were working reasonably well.
Mr McGuigan added that of the 2,505 offenders released from custody up until August 2015, 723 (29%) were subsequently recalled to prison - a drop of six per cent since 2010.
Mr McGuigan said that additional input was required from the Parole Commissioners for Northern Ireland and the Department of Justice Offender Recall Unit who were central to the recall process.
This was particularly important given the impact the management of the recall and supervision processes placed on the Probation Board for Northern Ireland, while the Northern Ireland Prison Service sought to address increasing demands on prison resources when offenders were recalled to prison.
In conclusion the Chief Inspector said: "We welcome the work that is ongoing to further strengthen the recall process along with the development of a DoJ strategy for a whole sentence approach to offender management.
"We also believe it would be beneficial to consider the use of hostels or other 'step-up, step-down' facilities as an alternative to direct recall to prison, where it is appropriate and the risk of further offending and need to maintain public safety, can be effectively managed."