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.

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

UK: The Effectiveness of Sentencing Options – A review of key research findings

6th January 2021

The Sentencing Academy (England and Wales) has published a report examining research findings on the effectiveness, particularly in terms of reducing re-offending, of three sentencing disposals.

Probation recidivism 2014 cohort

17th November 2020

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has published statistics on three-year reoffending (recidivism) for those sentenced to probation in 2014, in conjunction with one-year reoffending rates for the years 2008-2016.

IPRT Submission to Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response

9th September 2020

IPRT was invited by the Oireachtas Special Committee on COVID-19 Response to make a submission on how the State's legislative framework contributed to the response to COVID-19 and how the legislative framework might be improved upon.

Law Reform Commission publishes Report on Suspended Sentences

31st August 2020

The Law Reform Commission has published a 'Report on Suspended Sentences'. The report examines the legislation and the principles that underpin the operation of suspended sentences in Ireland and makes a number of proposals as to how the suspended sentence might be used more effectively.

Why is diversion important for young people?

18th August 2020

Here, we summarise some of the processes involved in the Garda Youth Diversion Programme (GYDP), and outline the value of diversion from the full criminal justice system for young people.

High rates of reoffending following imprisonment for less serious crime demands alternative response – IPRT

5th August 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: New figures published by the Central Statistics Office find that 55.2% of people released from prison in 2014 reoffended within 3 years. Nearly 80% of those aged under 21 when they were committed to prison reoffended within three years of being released, and 75% of people imprisoned for public order offences reoffended within three years. Reoffending rates remain too high and this demands alternative.responses

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

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