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.

Oireachtas Justice Committee, submissions on 'Community Courts' & Seanad Debate

26th February 2014

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, has included all submissions, written and oral, in relation to a proposed pilot Community Court in Dublin

Irish Times, 'Could community courts cut low-level crime in our cities?'

27th January 2014

Mark Hilliard, writing in the Irish Times, explains the many possible benefits of establishing a community court in Irish cities.

Report on effectiveness of Garda Youth Diversion Programme 2012

30th December 2013

The Department of Justice and Equality has published the 'Report of the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda Diversion Programme 2012'. The report records a drop in the number of children coming to the attention of the Gardaí for a sixth year in a row

CSO: Statistics on recidivism among offenders placed under probation or community service orders in 2008

11th December 2013

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has provided figures for recidivism rates for those who were placed under Community Service Orders and Probation Orders in 2008 ('2008 cohort'). Also included is a comparison table with figures for the 2007 cohort.

UK: Howard League publishes paper on 'Intelligent Justice'

19th February 2013

The Howard League for Penal Reform has published a thought-provoking pamphlet comparing the effectiveness of prison terms and community sentences in preventing crime.

IPRT welcomes increase in use of community sanctions as alternative to prison

15th August 2012

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the significant increase in the use of community sanctions as an alternative to imprisonment revealed in The Probation Service Annual Report 2011, which was published today.

Effective Drug Courts in USA

7th June 2012

Recent studies show that Drug Courts offer an effective alternative to prison

Irish Examiner: 'E-tagging ‘may not resolve’ prison crisis'

14th April 2012

In an article in the 'Irish Examiner', reporter Seán McCárthaigh outlines IPRT's response to prison service plans for electronic tagging.

UK: 'Community or Custody: Which Works Best?' (Final Report)

12th September 2011

Make Justice Work have today published the findings of the National Enquiry, set up to investigate the efficacy and cost of short term prison sentences versus robust community based alternatives for low-level offenders.

(UK) Restorative Justice: Time for Action

8th September 2011

The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) welcomes the commitment set out in the Governments recent response to the 'Breaking the Cycle' consultation to use restorative justice interventions at each stage of the justice system.

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

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