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.  

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

Cutting crime: the case for justice reinvestment (England & Wales) 15th January 2010

A new report from a Commons select committee has identified that the current prison building programme is unsustainable, and the cash would be better spent on rehabilitation and prevention so as to cut crime. Read more

MPs say £4.2 billion plan for prison expansion is a costly mistake 14th January 2010

An article by Alan Travis in the Guardian outlines how the Commons select committee report on justice describes how money would be better spent on rehabilitation and prevention to cut crime as opposed to expanding the prison building programme. Read more

IPRT Position Paper 6: Planning the Future of Irish Prisons 22nd September 2009 PDF documents

A Position Paper setting out the main issues relating to planning for the future of the prison system including the size of the prison population. Read more

IPRT Position Paper 5: Penal Policy with Imprisonment as a Last Resort 21st September 2009 PDF documents

A Position Paper setting out IPRT's vision for a penal system where imprisonment is used only as a last resort. Read more

"Do Better Do Less" - report from the Commission on English Prisons Today 2nd July 2009 YouTube

A landmark report into the prison system has been published today. The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today takes a radical look at the purposes and limits of a penal system and how it should sit alongside other social policies. Read more

IPRT Position Paper Thornton Hall 2nd June 2009

A Position Paper which sets out our concerns about the present proposals and makes recommendations as to how the present project, if it goes ahead, can better reflect human rights standards, international best practice and the principles of progressive penal reform. Read more

IPRT Position Paper 1: Thornton Hall 2nd June 2008 PDF documents

A Position Paper setting out IPRT's position on Thornton Hall. Read more

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