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.

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. Read more

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. Read more

Doubling up in cells is an ineffective and short-term response to overcrowding 3rd May 2019

IPRT repsonse to reports of recategorisation of single cells to deal with overcrowding. Read more

The Irish Times: ‘Prisoner numbers in highly successful rehabilitation scheme cut by half’ 29th April 2019

The Irish Times reported on the drop in numbers being admitted to the Community Return Programme, with comment from IPRT’s Fíona Ní Chinnéide. Read more

Chronic issues in Ireland's female prisons demand urgent government action on community-based alternatives - IPRT 13th March 2019

ADVISORY: IPRT responds to the publication of the Visiting Committee Annual Reports 2017 for the Dóchas Centre and Limerick Prison, calling on the Government to deliver on previous policy commitments to improve responses to women in prison. Read more

The Irish Times: Sharp increase in Irish prison population 6th August 2018

The Irish Times has published an article and an editorial detailing the sharp increase in Ireland’s prison population in 2018, following years of decline and stability. Read more

IPRT Submission to the Probation Service's Strategic Plan 2018-2020 16th February 2018

IPRT welcomes the opportunity to provide its views on the role and priorities of the Probation Service as part of the development of its Strategic Plan 2018-2020. Read more

Community Service in Ireland: A qualitative exploration of one alternative to short-term imprisonment 11th October 2017

This discussion paper is based on the qualitative findings of employment-based PhD research completed by Dr Kate O'Hara. Read more

Probation Service: Annual Report 2015 27th June 2016

A report setting out the work and achievements of The Probation Service for 2015. Read more

Community Service Orders as Alternatives to Short Prison Sentences in Ireland 1st December 2015

Kate O’Hara our Irish Research Council Employment Based Postgraduate Scholar recently published some of her research findings on sentencing patterns in Irish courts in the Irish Probation Journal. Read more

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