Justice Minister David Ford has welcomed an inspection report acknowledging the valuable contribution approved premises play in rehabilitating offenders.
The Minister was responding to the publication of a Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) report on approved premises which recognises the important role these facilities play in terms of their contribution to the public protection arrangements in Northern Ireland, in assisting offenders resettle back into society and reducing their risk of reoffending.
David Ford said: “This is a positive report confirming practices within approved premises have advanced and working relationships strengthened since the last CJINI report in July 2008.
“Those who cause harm to society must be held to account for their actions and face appropriate punishment. However, a purely punitive approach does not reduce reoffending in the long term.
“Reducing offending and reoffending is an incredibly complex issue. The evidence shows that justice systems are more effective when they provide practical support both in custody and in the community to encourage desistance and reduce reoffending.
“Approved premises play a vital role in this regard. One of the most significant findings of this report has been to show that offenders reduce their risk levels while living in approved premises, which makes our community safer.
David Ford continued: “I commend the staff who work in approved premises for their commitment and dedication as they meet the daily challenges and demands posed by accommodating high risk and on occasions, high profile offenders.”
Each of the seven approved premises in Northern Ireland is managed by the voluntary and community sector, with support from statutory agencies such as the PSNI and Probation Board NI.
David Ford said: “The Inspectors report also points to the very positive relationship that exists between the three sectors, community, voluntary and statutory, in managing these premises and indeed calls it a model of best practice.
“Reducing offending requires a coordinated response, beyond the justice system alone. I welcome this level of cooperation across the sectors and the significant contribution it is making.”
Acting Director of the Probation Board Cheryl Lamont added: “Today’s report is a welcome endorsement of partnership working in what is recognised to be a difficult and demanding area. PBNI is committed to addressing the accommodation issues of offenders as part of our role in reducing reoffending and keeping communities safer for everyone.”
The Department is currently developing an action plan to address the five recommendations contained within the Criminal Justice Inspection Report.
Notes to editors:
1. Approved premises are hostels that receive Northern Ireland Housing Executive Supporting People funding specifically for offenders, allocate bedspaces for criminal justice referrals and apply Probation Board for Northern Ireland standards.
2. To obtain a copy of the report in advance of publication please contact CJINI’s Communication Manager, Meloney McVeigh on 079666 81324 or 028 90 258013.