Irish Penal Reform Trust

Today FM: Convicted offenders to do community service

19th January 2010

IPRT's Liam Herrick spoke to Today FM's 'The Last Word' about a pilot project between the Probation Service and Dublin City Council, which will see convicted offenders do community service, such as cleaning graffiti from city walls. Participants will be vetted, trained and supervised by the Probation Service.

This offers a good example of what can be achieved if the criminal justice system shifts towards people paying back in the community, Liam stated. Using creative solutions like this, where the public can see people actually compensating for committing crimes, can be a very positive step.

Moreover, the satisfation of doing a good day's work - which some people will never have experienced before - will lead to even more positive outcomes in the longer term. 

Local authorities in the Dublin area have a good track record of engaging with the criminal justice system, for example taking on people who have left prison, furthering their chances of successful rehabilitation.

Effective overseeing is vital to maintain public confidence, added Liam. However, humiliation of offenders should not be an aspect.

The Probation Service recently published its 'Value for Money' report on the use of community service orders, with very encouraging findings. For example, it found that 85% of community service orders are complied with satisfactorily.

In fact, the Probation Service has stated that their capacity is far greater; they could take more people out of the prison system and into community service if the Courts were using this option. Currently judges in many parts of the country are not using this option to the extent possible; there is a huge variation between the cities and parts of rural Ireland, where judges don't use this sanction at all. 

The Probation Service spends €6 million a year on community service orders, which is an extremely low amount compared with the Courts Service and Prison Service budgets. A shift towards a greater use of community service orders as an alternative to imprisonment would be a huge saving for the tax-payer; we should encourage the government to better resource this service.

Listen to the interview:

Today FM's 'The Last Word' archives can be accessed here (see 18/01/2010, 5.50pm) or click on the link:

Read more:

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



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