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.

Irish Examiner: Project bridges the gap

14th May 2010

Since 1991, Dublin's Bridge Project has been working with persistent offenders and offering an alternative to prison.

Oireachtas Seminar on Community Sanctions

31st March 2010

Dr Mairead Seymour and Prof Ian O'Donnell on the need for the proper resourcing of community sanctions.

Restorative justice is about balance: between therapeutic and retributive models;

22nd March 2010

Restorative justice creates a balance between the rights and responsibilities of offenders and the needs of victims; between a community's desire for local solutions and the state's duty to punish.

NI: Community Service Schemes Receive a Glowing Report

10th March 2010

A report released in NI today examines the Probation Board's Community Service schemes.

UK: The Cost of Short Sentences

10th March 2010

A new report by the National Audit Office in the UK highlights the social and economic cost of short sentences.

US: Downsizing the Prison Population

10th March 2010

The reduction of the prison population is the focus of two US reports.

Irish Examiner: Drop of 64% in offence rate by youths in scheme

26th February 2010

A new one-on-one young offender management scheme shows impressive results.

UK: Intensive Fostering for Young Offenders

26th February 2010

A pilot scheme in the UK opts for intensive fostering for young offenders rather than prison.

Young offenders to clean graffiti

23rd February 2010

Young offenders are to be put to work cleaning graffiti as part of a pilot project in Cork city.

Scotland: Police Chief calls for radical overhaul of community sentences

19th February 2010

Chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, David Strang, calls for a radical change in way the system as a whole works to prevent crime rather than simply mop up the aftermath.

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



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