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.  

Re-offending Statistics in England and Wales 11th November 2010

The UK’s Ministry of Justice recently released a paper entitled Compendium of Re-offending Statistics and Analysis aiming to reliably compare proven reoffending rates between offenders receiving short custodial sentences and offenders commencing a court order under probation supervision. Read more

RTÉ Marian Finucane: Prisons in Ireland 28th August 2010

An in-depth discussion on imprisonment in Ireland, including its effectiveness (or not) as punishment, issues surrounding the availability of rehabilitation services (and information about services), drugs in prison and drug treatment in prison, and more. Read more

Irish Times: Prison not the only answer 10th August 2010

There is much more justice to be yielded from alternatives to prison. Read more

IPRT Open Forum 2010: Exploding Prisoner Numbers 28th June 2010

The 2010 Open Forum event of the Irish Penal Reform Trust took place on Monday 28th June, 2010 at the Morrison Hotel, Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. Read more

The Times: Britain's ballooning prison population is a disastrous mess 27th May 2010

Lord Woolf explains why it is folly to continue jailing so many people. Read more

Mountjoy Under Spotlight at Justice Committee Meeting 21st May 2010

Former Mountjoy Visiting Committee member, Paul Mckay, appeared yesterday before the Justice Committee to express his concern at the conditions in the prison. Read more

Guardian: Penal reform a key policy flashpoint for Lib-Con coalition 19th May 2010

Prison building versus reducing prisoner numbers - can the coalition negotiate a compromise on penal policy? Read more

Irish Times: Minimise use of custody with fewer but better cells 14th May 2010

Professor Ian O'Donnell, writing in the Irish Times, presses home the need for a rethink of penal expansionism. Read more

Guardian: Why prison-building is criminal 6th May 2010

Prison-building exercises cannot deliver safer societies. Read more

White Paper on Crime 14th April 2010 Word documents

The current White Paper on crime: description of the process and IPRT submissions. Read more

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