Restorative justice could cut 'reoffending and save €8.3m'
Dec 23, 2009
The government should introduce a restorative justice scheme by 2015 that is capable of handling up to 7,250 criminal cases every year, a new report has commended.
The scheme, which typically allows offenders to provide some form of reparation to victims rather than serve time in prison, could save the exchequer up to €8.3 million per year. It could also cut reoffending rates in half, according to the report to be published [17 Dec] by Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern.
Compiled by the National Commission on Restorative Justice, it recommends that courts be required to consider restorative justice as an alternative to prison for offences where sentences of up to three years in jail are normal.
The report cites research in Northern Ireland, which found re-conviction rates for offenders successfully completing restorative justice schemes were 38 per cent, compared to 73 per cent for those offenders receiving a custodial sentence. It also praises two pilot restorative justice schemes already operating in Tallaght and Nenagh, Co Tipperary.
The Nenagh scheme received 98 referrals between 2001 and 2007, of which 89 per cent were completed successfully. The Tallaght scheme organised 51 face-to-face meetings between offenders and victims from 2004 to 2007, of which two-thirds were progressed to a substantial level of engagement, says the report.
Highlighting cost savings from restorative justice, the report estimates applying the scheme to a range of between 3,265 and 7,250 criminal cases before the courts every year would save €4.1 million-€8.3 million in prison costs.
In 2007 the cost per referral for restorative justice cases at Tallaght District Court was €3,250. In comparison, the average cost of keeping an offender in prison in 2007 was €97,700 while the cost of a probation order was €8,200, says the report.