Over 3,500 offenders receive support into work and education

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald TD
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald TD

Over 3,500 offenders were supported into training, further education and employment by the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) in 2013 and 2014.

Launching the community-based organisation’s biennial report yesterday, Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said she fully endorsed its rehabilitation strategy.

IASIO provides three specific programmes to support the integration of offenders: the Linkage Programme, which is funded by the Probation Service, as well as the Gate and the Resettlement Service, both of which are funded by the Irish Prison Service.

In 2013 and 2014, the organisation received almost €3.5 million in public funds.

Over the two-year period, IASIO placed 1,239 persons in training, provided 997 clients with further education, and placed 1,278 clients in employment.

Of new referrals to the organisation in 2013 and 2014, 21 per cent had committed a controlled drug offence, making it the single biggest offence type among its input.

After that, 15 per cent had committed assault, harassment and related offences; 12 per cent had committed theft and related offences; and 10 per cent had committed public order and other social offences.

Ms Fitzgerald said: “It is recognised that many offenders come from difficult backgrounds and have complex needs such as alcohol or drug problems, literacy skills, and social skills.

“These people require a broad range of support and assistance in the community if they are to make better choices. I totally endorse this ‘rehabilitation and reintegration’ approach, which was identified by the Penal Policy Review Group as a core principal and significant factor in reducing crime.”

She added: “While it is well known that I am particularly committed to strengthening support for the victims of crime, as Minister for Justice and Equality, I would also like to oversee a system which aims to reduce such numbers by a reduction in crime.

“My presence here today is an endorsement of the work done by both criminal justice agencies and community organisations in challenging offending behaviour which has at its centre the needs of victims to feel safer in their communities.”

Writing in the report’s foreword, IASIO CEO Paddy Richardson said: “Despite the many changes that have occurred in the three years since its establishment, IASIO has remained true to its ultimate objective of supporting the reduction of reoffending among people before the courts or being released from prison.

“In a time of severe austerity, IASIO has continued to instil confidence and motivation in our clients, leading to 1,239 people being placed in training, a further 997 in education and 1,278 in employment. This is in addition to the 1,125 people supported in their resettlement from prison over the 2013/2014 reporting period.

“These figures represent an important contribution to criminal justice practice in Ireland, in particular because they demonstrate both social and economic integration for some of the most disadvantaged people in our society.”