Almost half of all people released from prison in 2012 re-offended within three years, new figures show.
Among them, half of those released re-offended within the first six months and two-thirds within the first 12 months of release from prison.
The CSO Prison Recidivism Study analysed over 10,000 offenders released by the Irish Prison Service on completion of a custodial sentence in both 2011 and 2012, and are based on re-offending and reconviction data up to the end of 2014 and 2015.
The study’s findings show that the 2012 re-offending rate is at 45.8%, a decrease of 9.3% over the five-year period.
There was an increase in re-offending from the 2010 to 2011 cohorts, followed by 3.1% decrease from 2011 to 2012.
The report found that men made up most of the total population assessed and had a higher re-offender rate than women, 47.6% of men returned to criminal activity and 36% of women.
Re-offending continues to be highest among young men aged between 18 and 25, with rates decreasing though the age brackets.
People under 21 who serve a prison sentence are three times more likely to re-offend than those aged over 50.
The highest rates of re-offending were among those originally imprisoned for robbery (72.3%), burglary (69.4%) and theft (61.6%).
The highest number of subsequent offences of the 2012 cohort were for road and traffic offences (991), public order offences (801), and theft (509) followed by controlled drug offences (378).
In response, Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has called on the government to introduce a statutory obligation on housing, health, social protection, education and employment to co-operate around prisoner release.
They say these supports will improve outcomes for individuals released from prison, reduce re-offending and make communities safer.
Fíona Ni Chinneide, executive director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, said: “These statistics tell us that pre-release planning and post-release supports must be improved.
“What happens immediately outside the prison gates is critical.
“Put simply, if someone is released from prison into short-term hostel accommodation or homelessness, the outcomes are less likely to be positive.
“Most subsequent offences following release from prison were for road and traffic offences, public order offences, theft and controlled drug offences.
“These offences are often linked to underlying issues, such as addictions, poverty and homelessness – issues that a period of imprisonment only compounds.”
The Minister for Justice, Charlie Flanagan, said he “very much welcomed the overall downward trend” in recidivism levels for those released from prison in recent years compared to those released in 2007.
He added: “It is worth noting that the figures reported today relate to 2011 and 2012 and pre-date many of the enhanced prisoner programmes introduced by the Irish Prison Service in recent years.
“I am confident that the joint initiatives which have since been introduced – including the Community Return and Community Support Schemes and the Joint Agency Response to Crime – will result in further reductions in recidivism levels in future studies.”