BANBRIDGE District councillors recently hosted a visit for Criminal Justice Chiefs and others to the council’s Restore Project to show the work being undertaken by people subject to Supervised Activity Orders.
This is a pilot scheme in Newry and Mourne aimed at fine defaulters and introduced by the Justice Minister David Ford MLA.
A Supervised Activity Order gives the Courts a community based alternative for non-payment of a fine rather than a prison term. The pilot scheme is administered by the Probation Board for Northern Ireland (PBNI), working with community partners who can provide placements, such as Restore.
Director of PBNI, Brian McCaughey, said at the visit, “Supervised Activity Orders benefit the individual and the community. Decreasing the use of custody for fine default will lead to a reduction in prison costs in the long term and communities can directly reflect the benefits of offenders’ contributions through voluntary work. We in probation know that community sentences are an effective disposal, three out of four people who complete community service do not re-offend in one year.”
Sue McAllister, Director General of the Northern Ireland Prison Service (NIPS), said: “It is interesting and valuable to see Supervised Activity Orders at work on the ground. The Minister has announced that the initial results from the pilot are encouraging and it has been extended to February 2013, as well as a further pilot announced in the Lisburn area.”
The Restore Project has become an integral part of the council’s waste management policy. Over the last couple of years the project has worked with dozens of socially marginalized individuals in offering them work placements and giving them an opportunity to improve their employability prospects.