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

Legislation to close St Patrick's passes all stages in Oireachtas 16th December 2015

IPRT celebrates the completion of all stages of the Prisons Bill 2015 in the Oireachtas, a critical final step on the long path ending the practice of detaining children in St Patrick's Institution. Read more

HIQA follow-up inspection at Oberstown Children Detention Campus 23rd October 2015

HIQA releases report on a follow-up inspection of Oberstown Children Detention Campus. Read more

UK Report: Report into the deaths of young people in custody 20th October 2015

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

IPRT welcomes passing of Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 21st July 2015

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) welcomes the passage today of the Children (Amendment) Bill 2015 as another important step towards ending the detention of children in adult prisons in Ireland. Read more

UK: Helping young people leaving custody 2nd July 2015

Beyond Youth Custody Programme (UK) has released a new report which exemplifies how re-offending rates remain high due to lack of support for helping young people get their lives back on track. Read more

IPRT welcomes extension of youth diversion projects and initiatives 15th May 2015

IPRT welcomes two announcements in the area of youth justice this week by Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD. Read more

Turnaround Youth - Launch 12th May 2015

IPRT launched our Turnaround Youth Project and Report on Tuesday 12th May 2015 in the Irish Film Institute, Dublin 2. Read more

Turnaround Youth: Young Adults (18-24) in the Criminal Justice System 12th May 2015

This IPRT report presents the case for the differential treatment of young adults aged 18-24 who come in contact with the criminal justice system, and is grounded in emerging evidence, best practice, and informed by input from young people with experience of the issues. Read more

Morning Ireland: Criticism of delays in progress of Oberstown 26th March 2015

Why has it taken so long to end the detention of under 18s in adult prisons? Read more

HIQA inspection report of Oberstown children detention school campus 25th February 2015

IPRT welcomes the publication by HIQA of its reports on two inspections of the Oberstown children detention school campus, which took place 28-30 October and 4 November 2014. The inspection reports were published alongside an Action Plan, which includes details on actions already taken to address issues of concern. Read more

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