IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

Receive updates by Email | RSS

Alternatives to Custody

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. Significant numbers of those who are sent to prison are committed there for non-violent offences such as fine default. Irish prisons are chronically overcrowded, and many prisoners who are sent to prison could be 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.

Recent positive developments include the passing Criminal Justice (Community Service)(Amendment)(No. 2) Act 2011, commenced in October 2011.However, statistics revealed in the 2012 annual reports of the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service indicate that the legislation has so far not had the desired impact on reducing the use of imprisonment for less serious offences.

IPRT continues to work towards the re-positioning of the criminal justice system in Ireland in favour of alternatives to custody, with the sanction of imprisonment imposed as last resort.

Facing Forward report: ‘Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities?’ 1st December 2014

Facing Forward today launched their ‘Sexual Trauma and Abuse: Restorative and Transformative Possibilities?’ report. Read more

Cabinet and Seanad approve Community Court pilot for Dublin 27th February 2014

Both the Cabinet and the Seanad have given approval to create a pilot Community Court in Dublin. The Department of Justice & Equality is to look into the matter further. Read more

Oireachtas Justice Committee, submissions on 'Community Courts' & Seanad Debate 26th February 2014 Word documents II

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, has included all submissions, written and oral, in relation to a proposed pilot Community Court in Dublin Read more

Irish Times, 'Could community courts cut low-level crime in our cities?' 27th January 2014

Mark Hilliard, writing in the Irish Times, explains the many possible benefits of establishing a community court in Irish cities. Read more

Report on effectiveness of Garda Youth Diversion Programme 2012 30th December 2013

The Department of Justice and Equality has published the 'Report of the Committee to monitor the effectiveness of the Garda Diversion Programme 2012'. The report records a drop in the number of children coming to the attention of the Gardaí for a sixth year in a row Read more

CSO: Statistics on recidivism among offenders placed under probation or community service orders in 2008 11th December 2013

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has provided figures for recidivism rates for those who were placed under Community Service Orders and Probation Orders in 2008 ('2008 cohort'). Also included is a comparison table with figures for the 2007 cohort. Read more

UK: Howard League publishes paper on 'Intelligent Justice' 19th February 2013

The Howard League for Penal Reform has published a thought-provoking pamphlet comparing the effectiveness of prison terms and community sentences in preventing crime. Read more

IPRT welcomes increase in use of community sanctions as alternative to prison 15th August 2012

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the significant increase in the use of community sanctions as an alternative to imprisonment revealed in The Probation Service Annual Report 2011, which was published today. Read more

Effective Drug Courts in USA 7th June 2012

Recent studies show that Drug Courts offer an effective alternative to prison Read more

Irish Examiner: 'E-tagging ‘may not resolve’ prison crisis' 14th April 2012

In an article in the 'Irish Examiner', reporter Seán McCárthaigh outlines IPRT's response to prison service plans for electronic tagging. Read more

Key Issues