Irish Penal Reform Trust

Alternatives to Custody

IPRT advocates for an Irish penal policy that is focused on non-custodial responses to crime, and which has rehabilitation and social integration at its centre.

Ireland systematically overuses imprisonment as punishment. While the average prison population on any given day in Ireland is close to the European average, the rates of committal to prison on sentence – the ‘flow’ of prisoners through the system – means that Ireland is one of the most punitive criminal justice systems in Europe. Additionally, the majority of people are sent to prison for short-term sentences, often for less than 6 months. Irish prisons are chronically overcrowded, and many prisoners who are sent to prison could be more effectively dealt with using non-custodial means.

IPRT believes that the best way of limiting the use of imprisonment in Ireland is the development of an integrated system of alternatives to custody. Alternatives to custody could include the wider use of suspended sentences, community service orders, etc.

The Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 introduced a requirement that the courts consider imposing CSOs for offences that would ordinarily attract a sentence of 12 months’ imprisonment or less. However, the Annual Reports of the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service since the enactment of the Amendment indicate that the legislation has so far not had the desired impact on reducing the use of imprisonment for less serious offences.

IPRT will continue to promote an increase in the use of non-custodial effective responses to crime as a means of reducing the numbers in detention, without net-widening.

Chronic issues in Ireland's female prisons demand urgent government action on community-based alternatives - IPRT

13th March 2019

ADVISORY: IPRT responds to the publication of the Visiting Committee Annual Reports 2017 for the Dóchas Centre and Limerick Prison, calling on the Government to deliver on previous policy commitments to improve responses to women in prison.

The Irish Times: Sharp increase in Irish prison population

6th August 2018

The Irish Times has published an article and an editorial detailing the sharp increase in Ireland’s prison population in 2018, following years of decline and stability.

IPRT Submission to the Probation Service's Strategic Plan 2018-2020

16th February 2018

IPRT welcomes the opportunity to provide its views on the role and priorities of the Probation Service as part of the development of its Strategic Plan 2018-2020.

Community Service in Ireland: A qualitative exploration of one alternative to short-term imprisonment

11th October 2017

This discussion paper is based on the qualitative findings of employment-based PhD research completed by Dr Kate O'Hara.

Probation Service: Annual Report 2015

27th June 2016

A report setting out the work and achievements of The Probation Service for 2015.

Community Service Orders as Alternatives to Short Prison Sentences in Ireland

1st December 2015

Kate O’Hara our Irish Research Council Employment Based Postgraduate Scholar recently published some of her research findings on sentencing patterns in Irish courts in the Irish Probation Journal.

UK: Report focuses on the views of family members of offenders with specific and particular needs

21st September 2015

The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) have recently published a report entitled “Relative Justice: the experiences and views of family members of people with particular needs in contact with criminal justice and liaison and diversion services”. Liaison and diversion is a process whereby individuals with particular vulnerabilities including: mental health problems; learning disabilities and substance misuse problems are identified and assessed as early as possible as they pass through the criminal justice system. The purpose of this report is to inform the development of liaison and diversion services prior to their national roll out in 2017.

Cabinet and Seanad approve Community Court pilot for Dublin

27th February 2014

Both the Cabinet and the Seanad have given approval to create a pilot Community Court in Dublin. The Department of Justice & Equality is to look into the matter further.

Oireachtas Justice Committee, submissions on 'Community Courts' & Seanad Debate

26th February 2014

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, has included all submissions, written and oral, in relation to a proposed pilot Community Court in Dublin

Irish Times, 'Could community courts cut low-level crime in our cities?'

27th January 2014

Mark Hilliard, writing in the Irish Times, explains the many possible benefits of establishing a community court in Irish cities.

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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