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.

Young offenders to clean graffiti

23rd February 2010

Young offenders are to be put to work cleaning graffiti as part of a pilot project in Cork city.

Scotland: Police Chief calls for radical overhaul of community sentences

19th February 2010

Chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, calls for a radical change in way the system as a whole works to prevent crime rather than simply mop up the aftermath.

IPRT Position Paper 8: Community Sanctions

16th February 2010

A Position Paper which makes the case for an increased use of community-based sanctions in Ireland to replace the use of imprisonment, which is proven to be costly and ineffective.

Irish Independent: 3,500 jailed for not paying fines in 2009

1st February 2010

3,500 people were jailed in 2009 for failing to pay court-ordered fines, including more than 60 who had received fines for not having a TV licence. Report by Louise Hogan and Shane Phelan.

Today FM: Convicted offenders to do community service

19th January 2010

IPRT's Liam Herrick spoke to Today FM's 'The Last Word' on a pilot project between the Probation Service and Dublin City Countil which will see convicted offenders do community service, such as cleaning graffiti from city walls.

Dublin: Community service pilot project to clean graffiti

18th January 2010

A pilot project between the Probation Service and Dublin City Council will see convicted offenders clean graffiti from city centre buildings in the coming months, reports Olivia Kelly in today's Irish Times.

IPRT welcomes report on Community Service Orders

19th October 2009

IPRT believes that a political decision must now be made to move towards the use of community sanctions as the default penal sanction for less serious offences; punishment by imprisonment should be reserved for the most serious of offences.

Alternatives to Custody - recommendations

11th May 2009

In 2006, Business in the Community in association with IPRT published a report on alternatives to custody, written by Máiread Seymour. The report recommended that...

Alternatives to Custody in Ireland Report

15th June 2006

Alternatives to Custody in Ireland is a report by Dr. Mairead Seymour, commissioned by Business in the Community Ireland and produced in partnership with IPRT.

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

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