Irish Penal Reform Trust

Penal Policy

IPRT advocates for a national penal policy that is just and humane, promotes effective non-custodial responses to crime and uses prison as a last resort.

Our vision is for Irish penal policy that focuses on non-custodial responses to crime and has rehabilitation and social reintegration at its core. We believe that the emphasis of our penal system needs to move towards diverting young offenders and at risk groups away from offending behaviour at the entry points to the penal system.

We work towards securing long-term commitment to a coherent, evidence-informed, and effective penal policy, underpinned by international best practice. Effectiveness in this context is taken to mean the approaches to offending behaviour which reduce the risk of re-offending and which are seen to have the greatest social and economic benefits while minimising potential social and economic harm.

Key issues for IPRT in relation to the development of Irish penal policy over recent years have included highlighting the rapid expansion of our prison population from 2007 to 2011 (and again in 2018 and 2019) and promoting alternatives to custody through research, advocacy and policy work. 

We also engage in public and political debate around crime and punishment to build more informed debate and counteract the demonization of offenders. Some of our media appearances are detailed here.  

IPRT Position Paper 6: Planning the Future of Irish Prisons

22nd September 2009

A Position Paper setting out the main issues relating to planning for the future of the prison system including the size of the prison population.

IPRT Position Paper 5: Penal Policy with Imprisonment as a Last Resort

21st September 2009

A Position Paper setting out IPRT's vision for a penal system where imprisonment is used only as a last resort.

"Do Better Do Less" - report from the Commission on English Prisons Today

2nd July 2009

A landmark report into the prison system has been published today. The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today takes a radical look at the purposes and limits of a penal system and how it should sit alongside other social policies.

IPRT Position Paper Thornton Hall

2nd June 2009

A Position Paper which sets out our concerns about the present proposals and makes recommendations as to how the present project, if it goes ahead, can better reflect human rights standards, international best practice and the principles of progressive penal reform.

IPRT Position Paper 1: Thornton Hall

2nd June 2008

A Position Paper setting out IPRT's position on Thornton Hall.

Putting Prison in its Place

5th November 2005

This address, given to the Annual Conference of the Irish Association for the Study of Delinquency, argues that the building of Thornton Hall prison is "at odds with the requirements of necessity, parsimony and proportionality ... and reinforces the idea of prison as the centre of the penal system rather than challenging this view on the basis of economy, efficiency and effectiveness..." (Prof Ian O'Donnell).

Impact of Parental Imprisonment on Children

28th June 2002

The Centre for Social and Educational Research, DIT, released a report investigating the effects of parental imprisonment on children. Despite the fact that those directly affected by imprisonment far exceed the number of those who are actually serving custodial sentences the topic has to date received little formal attention in Ireland.

Crime and poverty: Submission to the National Crime Forum

30th January 1998

This article portrays the Combat Poverty Agency’s appreciation for the establishment of the long needed National Crime Forum for the creation of public policy on crime and the responses to crime.

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



Contact us

  • Tel: 01 874 1400
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