IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

Join Donate

Get News Updates:

Key Issues

Human Rights in Prison

IPRT is committed to ensuring that the rights of prisoners are respected, and that Irish penal policy is based on the implementation of international human rights standards.

Penal Policy

Ireland systematically overuses imprisonment as punishment. IPRT believes imprisonment should be used as a last resort, and that the emphasis of our penal system needs to move away from expansionism, and towards diverting young offenders and at risk groups away from offending behaviour.


Imprisonment itself causes a number of serious social harms, and therefore should only be used sparingly at the point of sentencing. We believe that greater transparency in sentencing can be achieved as well as better coordination between sentencing authorities and other agencies on the penal system.

Alternatives to Custody

Irish prisons are chronically overcrowded. Significant numbers of those who are sent to prison for non-violent offences could be dealt with using non-custodial means. IPRT believes in the development of an integrated system of alternatives to custody, which could include the wider use of suspended sentences and community service orders.

Youth Justice: Prevention and Early Intervention   

Custody for children should only be used as a last resort and for the minimum required period of time. In Ireland, the Children Act 2001 recognizes this principle. However, the practice of detention of children continues. IPRT remains deeply concerned at this situation, and we continue to engage in wider policy and practice issues relating to youth justice, such as provision of alternatives to detention, diversion and early intervention programmes.

Immigration Detention   

Holding immigration detainees in prisons in Ireland has been condemned by the European Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT). IPRT is committed to working towards the elimination of immigration detention in Ireland, and in particular to working for an end to the practice of holding immigration detainees in prisons.

Women in Detention   

The impact of even short-term imprisonment on women and their families is profound, and the economic and social costs to society at large are significant. IPRT is committed to working towards major policy change in relation to imprisonment of women in Ireland, with a central focus on the provision of alternatives to detention.

Reintegration of Offenders   

Even a short period of imprisonment can damage a prisoner’s ability to function in society, contributing to his or her return to offending following release. IPRT believes that appropriate preparation for release and post-release support play an important role in the successful return of former prisoners to their families, communities and wider society.

For more information on these priority areas for penal reform, see the individual sections opposite.

US: Connecticut report released on rates of sex offender recidivism

A study released in February 2012 by the Connecticut Office of Policy and Management found that sex offenders released from prison in Connecticut are unlikely to return to prison for a new sex crime. Read more

Pilot Parenting Programme in Limerick Prison

A new parenting programme piloted in Limerick prison is featured on the Sean O'Rourke programme on RTE Radio one. Read more

Parenting in Prison

A new parenting programme piloted in Limerick Prison is featured on 'Today with Sean O'Rourke' on RTE Radio One. Read more

UK Report: Report into the deaths of young people in custody

A report entitled “Changing Prisons, Saving Lives Report of the Independent Review into Self-inflicted Deaths in Custody of 18-24 year olds” published in July 2015 examines in detail the lives of 87 young people (four children and 83 young adults aged from 18 to 24) who died between April 2007… Read more