Northern Ireland news

Rehabiliation orders 'reduce the likelihood of children falling into poverty'

Cheryl Lamont and Paul Doran from Probation Board Northern Ireland discussing the launch of ECOs. Picture by Ann McManus

REHABILITATION orders which keep offenders out of prison have been shown by researchers to reduce the likelihood of their children falling into poverty and "inter-generational" criminal behaviour.

An analysis of the impact of Enhanced Probation Orders by the Ulster University Economic Policy Centre (UUEPC) found a significant impact expected for the families of offenders.

The Department of Justice's `problem-solving' initiative, delivered by the Probation Board (PBNI) and designed "to identify and tackle underlying factors contributing to offending", introduced the orders as part of a raft of measures in 2015.

Lasting from 12 months to three years, they are a combination of unpaid community work, intensive probation, restorative intervention, psychological assessment and treatment.

The orders have been successfully completed by 404 offenders in Armagh and south Down, Ards and the north west courts areas since the launch.

The UUEPC evaluation found they "may be expected to transform the lives of offenders’ families and, in particular, the life-chances of their children via reduced probabilities of entering poverty and intergenerational offending cycles".

"Where ECOs are issued, offenders' families are not subject to the (often) negative effects of imprisonment.

"As such, children in those families are not subject to associated risk factors for anti-social behaviour, which is a key factor in street disorder and incivility.

"Over the longer term, this reduced propensity for anti-social behaviour may reduce fear of crime in those neighbourhoods."

The impact assessment identified "an expected net benefit of £5.7m to £8.3m per year in the event of roll-out" across Northern Ireland.

It suggested criminal justice bodies could "retain these savings and redistribute the expenditure into further crime prevention and community safety initiatives".

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