Youth Justice

Artane Industrial School

Ireland has a long history of poor responses to offending behaviour by children. A core strand to IPRT's work since its establishment in 1994 has been the promotion of a more effective youth justice system, with emphasis on non-custodial alternatives, diversion, early intervention and prevention strategies and programmes. Central to our work was ending the practice of detaining children in adult prisons, which was in breach of international human rights standards and a serious stain on Ireland's human rights record.

International human rights standards, and in particular the provisions of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, are clear that custody for children should only be used as a last resort and for the minimum required period of time. All efforts should be made to apply alternatives to detention to ensure that such a measure is only used in exceptional circumstances.

In Ireland, the Children Act 2001 recognizes the principle of detention as a last resort. The Act prohibits the imprisonment of children and the Criminal Justice Act 2006 makes provision for all children less than 18 years of age to be detained in Children Detention Schools. The detention school model is focused on a model of care, education, health and programmes that address offending, with improved outcomes for the young people, their communities and all of society. The Irish Youth Justice Service is responsible for the Children Detention Schools, within the Department of Children and Youth Affairs.

Following years of sustained advocacy by IPRT, along with many national and international bodies, in 2012 the detention of boys aged under 17 at St Patrick's Institution ended. In March 2017, a Ministerial Order ended the sentencing of children aged under 18 to adult prison in Ireland, and in April 2017, St. Patrick’s Institution was finally closed. Since September 2017 boys aged under 18 are no longer detained in the adult prison system.

IPRT continues to work towards progressive change in youth justice policies and practice, as well as engaging with wider policy and practice issues relating to youth justice, such as the provision of alternatives to detention, diversion and early intervention programmes. 

Oberstown 2018 sml

UK: 'Trial and Error' - Children and young people in trouble with the law 25th February 2010

'Trial and Error- Children and young people in trouble with the law' provides a guide to charities on the issue of young offenders and how charities should tackle this problem. Read more

UK: 'Out of Trouble' 25th February 2010

Prison Reform Trust campaign to drastically reduce the number of children and young people in prison. Read more

UK: Professional Dance Training for Young Offenders 24th February 2010

UK project 'Dance United' sees reduction in reoffending rates for those young people participating. Read more

Guardian: Young offenders making amends through community reparation 17th February 2010

Members of the public in the the north west of England have suggested projects that young offenders can do to make up for their misdemeanors. Read more

Guardian: Where's the victim support for troubled perpetrators? 17th February 2010

A Guardian article highlights the familiar story that many young offenders are themselves victims. Read more

The Irish Times: Youth Crime 1st February 2010

At last, measures to supervise and rehabilitate troubled juveniles within their own communities and keep them out of prison are having a measurable effect. Read more

NY Times: 'City Signals Intent to Put Fewer Teenagers in Jail' 20th January 2010

The mayor's office has announced plans to merge the city’s Department of Juvenile Justice into its child welfare agency. This signals a "more therapeutic approach toward delinquency" that will see fewer young offenders sent to prison. Read more

NYCI: Working With Young People Involved in the Juvenile Justice System 14th December 2009

A useful resource created for those working with children, with special attention given to those children in conflict with the law. Read more

UK: 'Healthy Children, Safer Communities' 8th December 2009

A new cross-government strategy to promote the health and well-being of children and young people in contact with the youth justice system. Read more

U R Boss: new youth justice project from Howard League 3rd December 2009 YouTube

U R Boss is a ground breaking youth justice project in the UK that provides an enhanced legal service shaped by and for young people in custody and those recently released into the community. Read more

viewed here