Last year saw a further rise in the number of community-service sanctions handed down by Irish courts — with a marked increase in those involving female offenders.
The Probation Service Annual Report 2018 shows a rise in the number of sex offenders and prisoners with life sentences being supervised in the community.
However, there was a drop in the number of prisoners being released under a structured programme to probation officers.
Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan welcomed the increasing use of community-service sanctions, which can be handed down as an alternative to a prison sentence of 12 months or less for offenders aged over 16.
Probation Service Director Vivian Geiran said they worked with almost 16,000 offenders during 2018.
In his foreword, he said that reducing reoffending was a societal challenge which needed a “whole of society” response.
The annual report shows:
The report shows that the main offences involved in the referrals made in 2018 were theft (22%), drug offences (16%), assaults (15%), public order offences (11%), and road traffic offences (10%).
Other serious offences include burglary (7.5%), weapons offences (3%), robbery (2%), and sexual offences (2%).
The report said the number of prisoners on the Community Return structured release programme fell from 301 in 2016, to 221 in 2017, and to 218 in 2018.
The number of offenders who successfully completed that programme was 270, 206, and 197 over those respective years.
The number of inmates in prison that the Probation Service worked with fluctuated from 2,518 in 2016 to 2,930 in 2017, and down to 2,524 last year.
In relation to sex offenders, the Probation Service runs various programmes: the Group Work Treatment Programme, a community-based project that operates in Dublin and Cork; Circles of Support and Accountability, where members of the local community work with medium to high-risk offenders; and the Floating Support Service, which is for high-risk, high-need offenders in the greater Dublin area.
Of the 393 sex offenders, 146 were monitored under Sex Offender Risk Assessment and Management programme, which brings together the gardaí, Tusla, local authorities, the Irish Prison Service, and Probation Service. The latter service also runs programmes for perpetrators of domestic violence and related training for its staff.
The report said that the 2,499 community orders involved 355,404 hours of community service work, amounting to €3m worth of unpaid work for the benefit of local areas.