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.  

Accelerated action must be taken to reduce prisoner numbers in order to uphold minimum human rights and keep people safe – IPRT

15th April 2020

ADVISORY: Efforts to reduce the prison population must be ramped up in order to uphold minimum human rights standards of those in custody and protect the wider prison community from COVID-19.

'SPACE I' Annual Penal Statistics: Prison Populations 2019

7th April 2020

The Council of Europe (CoE) has published 'SPACE I' Annual Penal Statistics on Prison Populations 2019. The report contains a detailed breakdown of penological trends across Europe. See IPRT's summary of key findings from both European and Irish perspectives.

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.

Parole Reform and the Parole Bill 2016

17th June 2019

IPRT makes recommendations on how the Parole Bill 2016 could be strengthened to achieve its goals of clarity, transparency and fairness.

Law Reform Commission publishes Fifth Programme of Law Reform

5th June 2019

IPRT welcomes the inclusion of ‘Structured Sentencing’ as a project in the LRC’s Fifth Programme of Law Reform.

Parole and Temporary Release in Ireland: An overview

4th June 2019

Want to know more about how parole works? We have compiled a brief overview of the purpose of parole and temporary release, as well as some recent figures on the use of parole in Ireland.

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.

RESCALED: Movement for small scale detention

14th May 2019

RESCALED, launched in April 2019, advocates for a small-scale, differentiated approach to prisons, with community integration at its core.

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.

Our work is supported by

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

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