Irish Penal Reform Trust

Alternatives to Custody

IPRT advocates for an Irish penal policy that is focused on non-custodial responses to crime, and which has rehabilitation and social integration at its centre.

Ireland systematically overuses imprisonment as punishment. While the average prison population on any given day in Ireland is close to the European average, the rates of committal to prison on sentence – the ‘flow’ of prisoners through the system – means that Ireland is one of the most punitive criminal justice systems in Europe. Additionally, the majority of people are sent to prison for short-term sentences, often for less than 6 months. Irish prisons are chronically overcrowded, and many prisoners who are sent to prison could be more effectively dealt with using non-custodial means.

IPRT believes that the best way of limiting the use of imprisonment in Ireland is the development of an integrated system of alternatives to custody. Alternatives to custody could include the wider use of suspended sentences, community service orders, etc.

The Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 introduced a requirement that the courts consider imposing CSOs for offences that would ordinarily attract a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment or less. However, the Annual Reports of the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service since the enactment of the Amendment indicate that the legislation has so far not had the desired impact on reducing the use of imprisonment for less serious offences.

IPRT will continue to promote an increase in the use of non-custodial effective responses to crime as a means of reducing the numbers in detention, without net-widening.

UK: “Maternal Imprisonment Polling Shows Clear Support for Better Services in the Community”

28th September 2021

Crest Advisory recently polled 2,500 members of the British public in order to assess attitudes regarding maternal imprisonment. 56% of those surveyed believed that the funding for 500 new prison places should be redirected to fund support services for women instead.

USA: Common Justice – Solutions to Violence

6th September 2021

This report profiles 18 groups in the USA that focus on healing and safety but do not rely on the police or incarceration. It provides nights into progressive practices for intervening in violence as it occurs, building viable models for accountability, and centring survivors’ needs.

Probation Service Annual Report 2020 and Strategy Statement 2021-2023

29th July 2021

One of the main focuses of the Annual Report is on the response of the Probation Service to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. A conviction for €4 worth of cannabis 'just defies logic', say campaigners

22nd May 2021

Following a report in the Irish Examiner about a person formerly addicted to heroin appearing before the courts charged with possession of €4 worth of cannabis, spoke to advocacy groups working in the areas of drug addiction and penal reform, including IPRT.

Establishment of High Level Taskforce must be met with staffing, resources and wide consultation – Irish Penal Reform Trust and Mental Health Reform

2nd April 2021

IPRT and Mental Health Reform welcome the joint announcement by the Ministers for Justice and Health, and Ministers of State with responsibility for mental health and the national drugs strategy, of the establishment of a High Level Taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of persons interacting with the criminal justice system.

Guest blog: Developing smart principles for sentencing guidelines in Ireland

12th March 2021

A guest blog post from academic researchers Dr. Ian D. Marder (Maynooth University) and Dr. Eoin Guilfoyle (University of Bristol) on the principles that might underpin sentencing guidelines in Ireland.

Joined-up approach to mental health in the criminal justice system will improve outcomes and reduce reoffending – IPRT

4th March 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: IPRT welcomes the publication of a new Probation Service research report on the prevalence of mental health problems among persons under probation supervision.

IPRT Submission to the Probation Service Strategy 2021-2023

2nd March 2021

IPRT welcomed the opportunity to make a submission to the Probation Service on its upcoming Strategy.

Young Adults on Remand: A scoping study for T2A

1st February 2021

The briefing examines to what extent the specific developmental needs of young adults are taken into account by courts when making decisions about whether to remand defendants into custody.

Launch of Restorative Justice: Strategies for Change website

29th January 2021

The new Restorative Justice: Strategies for Change website contains case studies, information from a mapping exercise, resources, and will feature all relevant news on restorative practices in Ireland

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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