Making communities safer requires an evidence-based approach to reducing reoffending. There is growing consensus across criminal justice literature and wider socio-political contexts that imprisonment is not an effective response to offending behaviour. It serves to further entrench conditions of social injustice, which ultimately reinforce recidivism.
This Academic Insights paper considers the current use of unpaid work in the community as a penal sanction. It highlights that it has the potential to adhere to principles of decarceration (through diversion from custody) and minimum intervention (as a more proportionate response to certain forms of offending) with a view to reducing recidivism. However, the underlying purpose of the sanction is often confused, hindering its strategic design and impact as an alternative to prison.
To address this, the paper proposes the advancement of a tripartite strategy, based on the principles of desistance, restorative justice, and social justice, to guide policy and operational developments relating to unpaid work in the community.
The proposal draws on findings from a report commissioned by the Irish Probation Service as part of its strategy to maximise the potential benefit of community service in the Irish criminal justice system, and to reform and revitalise the current operating model (Kennefick and Guilfoyle, 2022).
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Article written by Eoin Guilfoyle, Lecturer in Criminal Law and Criminal Justice, Brunel University London and Louise Kennefick, Senior Lecturer in Criminal Law, University of Glasglow.