Ford launches desistance strategy to tackle reoffending

Date published: 28 September 2015

Justice Minister David Ford has today published Supporting Change, A Strategic Approach to Desistance, which aims to address the causes of offending behaviour and challenges individuals to change that behaviour.

desistance strategy launched to tackle reoffending

The strategy sets out an agreed understanding of desistance from crime and is supported by an action plan to embed desistance theory in justice policy and practice.

Speaking in the Assembly, David Ford said: “Taking a desistance based approach is very much about working with the individual, to reduce their likelihood of reoffending and to prevent any future risk to the public.

“As the research shows, factors associated with desistance include things like getting older and maturing, having families and forming relationships, maintaining sobriety, and obtaining employment.

“Desistance theory also recognises the vital role that hope and motivation can play in encouraging a person to move away from offending behaviour. Having something to give others; having a place in a social group; not being viewed as a criminal; and being believed in are also important factors in a person’s desistance journey.

“Each of us can relate to the importance of these factors in our own daily lives – having a feeling of self-worth, a purpose, a loving relationship. Perhaps our lives have been fortunate in that many of these factors have come naturally to us, or with little effort. For many of those who have been in contact with the criminal justice system, their life paths have meant that their experiences are very different, and they need help and support if they are to make a lasting change in their lives. That is the purpose of Supporting Change."

David Ford continued: “To this end, there is strong commitment from the Prison Service, the Probation Board, the Police Service, the Youth Justice Agency and partners in the voluntary and community sector to enhance how we protect the public and reintegrate people who have offended into our society. The desistance action plan also provides a sound platform for greater partnership working not just within the justice system but across many other Departments. We all have key roles to play in addressing barriers to desistance.

“The strategy I am publishing reinforces my Department’s commitment to working with those who have offended in a flexible, person centred manner, which research shows has the best chance of supporting individuals to live lives free from further offending. Each individual who is successfully supported in desisting from offending contributes towards reducing the overall level of reoffending within Northern Ireland, which ultimately builds a safer community for us all.”

Notes to editors: 

1. Desistance theory is an area of criminological research that is primarily interested in the reasons that a person decides to stop offending. Work on desistance recognises the capacity of individuals to change their behaviour. It also provides some insight into some of the factors that can support that change.

2. The Department of Justice work on desistance links directly to a recommendation in the Prison Reform Programme and a commitment in the current Programme for Government, both of which build on the foundation laid by the Strategic framework for reducing offending.

3.View the strategic approach to desistance at the publications section
4. All media enquiries should be directed to the Department of Justice Press Office on 028 9052 6444. Out of office hours please contact the duty press officer via pager number 0769 971 5440 and your call will be returned.

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