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.

Probation Recidivism 2011 and 2012 Cohorts 27th June 2019

The Central Statistics Office has published statistics on re-offending for those sentenced to probation in 2011 and 2012. Data shows an almost 8% drop in the rate of re-offending between the 2008 and 2012 cohorts. Read more

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. Read more

Irish Penal Reform Trust welcomes increase in use of community service as a response to offending 17th June 2019

RELEASE: Although the rise in the number of offenders being dealt with through the Probation Service is welcome, IPRT is concerned at the fall in numbers participating in the Community Return Programme. Read more

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. Read more

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

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