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.

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

UK: 'Community or Custody: Which Works Best?' (Final Report) 12th September 2011

Make Justice Work have today published the findings of the National Enquiry, set up to investigate the efficacy and cost of short term prison sentences versus robust community based alternatives for low-level offenders. Read more

(UK) Restorative Justice: Time for Action 8th September 2011

The Criminal Justice Alliance (CJA) welcomes the commitment set out in the Governments recent response to the 'Breaking the Cycle' consultation to use restorative justice interventions at each stage of the justice system. Read more

MEDIA ADVISORY: IPRT welcomes passing of Community Service Order legislation 28th July 2011

IPRT has today welcomed the passing of the 'Criminal Justice (Community Service)(Amendment)(No. 2) Bill 2011' through both Houses of the Oireachtas; this brings IPRT's vision of a penal system where imprisonment is used only as a last resort closer to reality. Read more

US: Drug Courts success in reducing drug taking and crime 19th July 2011

A large study of Drug Courts in the United States has shown the success of the Courts in reducing both drug taking and crime. Read more

Italian residential facility for drug addiction offers offenders a chance to learn new trades as an alternative to prison 5th May 2011

San Patrignano, an Italian residential facility for drug addiction, offers offenders convicted of drug-related crimes rehabilitation and professional training in the community instead of imprisonment. Read more

IPRT Briefing: Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) (No.2) Bill 2011 23rd March 2011 PDF documents

A short analysis of the Community Service Bill which will be discussed in the Dáil on 24th March 2011. IPRT welcomes the Bill from the new Minister for Justice, Mr.Alan Shatter. Read more


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