Irish Penal Reform Trust

Penal Policy

IPRT advocates for a national penal policy that is just and humane, promotes effective non-custodial responses to crime and uses prison as a last resort.

Our vision is for Irish penal policy that focuses on non-custodial responses to crime and has rehabilitation and social reintegration at its core. We believe that the emphasis of our penal system needs to move towards diverting young offenders and at risk groups away from offending behaviour at the entry points to the penal system.

We work towards securing long-term commitment to a coherent, evidence-informed, and effective penal policy, underpinned by international best practice. Effectiveness in this context is taken to mean the approaches to offending behaviour which reduce the risk of re-offending and which are seen to have the greatest social and economic benefits while minimising potential social and economic harm.

Key issues for IPRT in relation to the development of Irish penal policy over recent years have included highlighting the rapid expansion of our prison population from 2007 to 2011 (and again in 2018 and 2019) and promoting alternatives to custody through research, advocacy and policy work. 

We also engage in public and political debate around crime and punishment to build more informed debate and counteract the demonization of offenders. Some of our media appearances are detailed here.  

IPRT features on 'Conversations on the Margins' podcast

9th May 2022

IPRT Senior Policy and Research Officer, Sarahjane McCreery, spoke with Senator Lynn Ruane on the 'Conversations on the Margins' podcast about the work of IPRT.

Minister for Justice publishes Justice Plan 2022

28th March 2022

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee TD has published Justice Plan 2022, outlining 159 actions to continue building a justice system that works for everyone.

Criminal Justice Sectoral Strategy 2022 – 2024

7th March 2022

The purpose of this first ever Criminal Justice Sectoral Strategy is to develop a shared vision for a more joined-up criminal justice system.

Irish Penal Reform Trust notes areas of regression in the penal system over five years

7th February 2022

MEDIA ADVISORY: In publishing the fifth edition of PIPS, IPRT finds that the penal system – in some key areas of practice – has regressed over the last five years. We called for reforms in custodial sentencing policy so that prison is used as a last resort.

Progress in the Penal System: The need for transparency (2021)

7th February 2022

Progress in the Penal System 2021 (or 'PIPS 2021'), the fifth in a series of annual reports benchmarking progress in Ireland's penal system.

UK: Covid-19 and the Criminal Law: House of Commons Justice Committee

24th September 2021

A new report from the House of Commons Justice Committee analyses the impact Covid-19 had on the criminal justice system in England and Wales, and in particular details the lessons that can be learned from how Covid offences were created and enforced during the pandemic.

US: Custodial Sanctions and Reoffending: A Meta-Analytic Review

22nd September 2021

This article conducts a meta-analysis of various studies that seek to find a correlation between custodial sanctions (imprisonment) and reoffending rates. The authors found that no matter what variables were considered, there was always either a null or criminogenic effect of imprisonment on reoffending, and therefore “the limited effects of custodial sanctions on reoffending should be viewed as a criminological fact.”

Interagency Group for a Fairer and Safer Ireland Annual Report 2019

20th April 2021

The Interagency Group focuses on analysing the nature of the problems faced by people when released from custody and how better interagency cooperation could assist in their reintegration into the community. The Group's third Annual Report outlines areas of progress and areas of concern.

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.

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

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