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 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.  

Reducing prisoner 'gratuity' is negative, miserly and punitive 31st July 2012

IPRT Board member, Dr Kevin Warner, outlines why reducing prisoner 'gratuity' is a complex and far-reaching issue. Read more

Drug-related deaths in Ireland third highest among 30 European countries 31st July 2012

Ireland's high rate of drug-related deaths is avoidable and challenges current policy approaches. Read more

Reducing Imprisonment Rates - Lessons from Europe 20th June 2012

A new report investigates the most effective ways to reduce the secular rise in British imprisonment rates. Read more

JCFJ Report: 'The Irish Prison System - Vision, Values, Reality' 14th March 2012

A new report from the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice provides an in-depth analysis of the prison system and outlines 15 recommendations for the future, calling for a radical change in prison policy. Read more

US: Recommendations for reducing incarceration through evidence-based policies 15th August 2011

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has recently published a report making a series of evidence based recommendations on how states can reduce incarceration, reducing both costs and crime rates. Read more

Scotland: Guide for People with Learning Disabilities and the Criminal Justice System 11th August 2011

The Scottish Government has recently published a Guide aimed at improving the relationship between people with learning disabilities and the criminal justice system. Read more

Home Detention Curfew and Open Prisons in Scotland 11th July 2011

Two schemes have been operating in Scotland providing conditional liberty to prisoners to maximise the opportunity for a safe and effective transition into society at the end of their sentence and to relieve the pressure of high prison populations. Read more

Drop in Wisconsin's Prison Population 13th January 2011

Wisconsin's prison population dropped significantly in 2010, reversing a trend of ballooning incarceration that had been predicted to continue for years. Read more

A Label for Exclusion: Support for alcohol misusing offenders. 8th January 2011

A policy paper released today by the Centre of Mental health identifies areas and practical examples of how, in a changing and uncertain policy and commissioning landscape, the joint commissioning and delivery of alcohol interventions for offenders in the community might be productively developed. Read more

Temporary release procedures 8th December 2010

A report delivered by the current Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, to the Minister for Justice three months ago (only released today) identified “a litany of flawed systems” within the justice system which combined with individual lapses of judgment and ended in the death of Mr. Noel Keegan, who… Read more

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