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.

Probation Service Annual Report 2019

5th August 2020

The Probation Service Annual Report 2019 was published by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, on 5th August 2020.

Findings on ‘cocooning’ in prisons must be acted on now to protect mental health and dignity of men and women in prison – IPRT

29th July 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: A briefing detailing the experiences of people cocooning in Irish prisons published today (29.07.2020) by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons demonstrates the need for enhanced prison oversight and the longer-term ineffectiveness of COVID-19 responses that rely on prolonged confinement in prisons.

‘Our Shared Future’ – Draft Programme for Government 2020+

15th June 2020

IPRT strongly welcomes many of the proposals in the draft Programme for Government. In particular, we welcome that the document reflects all of the five recommendations IPRT campaigned on in advance of the 2020 General Election.

Extension of successful Bail Supervision Scheme which keeps children out of detention shows value of evidence-led initiatives

8th June 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: The Bail Supervision Scheme keeps children and young people out of detention, helps children adhere to bail conditions, reduces reoffending, and reduces the use of custodial sanctions for children. Therefore, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the announcement by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Dr. Katherine Zappone, of the Scheme’s extension.

Probation Recidivism 2011 and 2012 Cohorts

27th June 2019

The Central Statistics Office has published statistics on re-offending for those sentenced to probation in 2011 and 2012. Data shows an almost 8% drop in the rate of re-offending between the 2008 and 2012 cohorts.

IPRT responds to annual report from Irish Prison Service

24th June 2019

While positive reforms have been made in penal policy in recent years, an over-reliance on prison sentences within the judicial system means our prisons are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

Irish Penal Reform Trust welcomes increase in use of community service as a response to offending

17th June 2019

RELEASE: Although the rise in the number of offenders being dealt with through the Probation Service is welcome, IPRT is concerned at the fall in numbers participating in the Community Return Programme.

UK: Increased temporary release of prisoners leads to reduced reoffending

31st May 2019

Results from a study published by the Ministry of Justice suggest that increased use of release on temporary license before release from prison is associated with reduced offending on release.

Scotland: Extension of the presumption against short custodial sentences

17th May 2019

The Scottish Government has today officially announced plans to extend the current presumption against short custodial sentences.

UK: A study of the impact of a presumption against custodial sentences of three months or less in Scotland

8th May 2019

Crest evaluates the impact of the introduction of a presumption against the use of custodial sentences of three months or less in Scotland in 2011.

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

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