A key purpose of re-integration is to prevent recidivism. This means preventing the ex-prisoner from re-offending.
Most prisoners come from communities that do not have enough financial or social supports to manage people returning from prison. Therefore, re-integration services are crucial to prevent prisoners from experiencing the same circumstances that led to their imprisonment. It is especially important to provide support during the first year of release, as this is when former prisoners are most at risk of re-offending. Extra support is needed for those who have drug and alcohol addictions and for those who are unemployed, have literacy difficulties and few educational qualifications. However, there are some problems with our current re-integration services.
A study of 19,000 prisoners in 2008 showed that almost 50% of them experienced re-imprisonment within 4 years of release. The study predicted that 60% of people who had been in prison in recent years will be imprisoned again.
Some prisons provide pre-release courses, to help prisoners to re-adjust - but many long-term prisoners are suddenly released with little preparation, and little or no social support. Prisoners who are released with no place to stay are provided with a free phone number that they can call to arrange emergency, short-stay accommodation, which is often of a very low standard. The majority of re-integration services are available in Dublin and so prisoners from outside this area are more likely to be imprisoned again.
Many released prisoners find that they have very limited opportunity to change.
In Ireland, unlike the UK, there is no spent conviction legislation. This means that if a person was 18 years or older when they committed a crime, they continue to have a criminal record for their whole life.