Irish Penal Reform Trust

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. Kate’s doctoral work compares the use, experience and outcomes of Community Service Orders (CSO) as alternatives to prison sentences of less than 12 months in Ireland. A CSO is a direct prison alternative requiring offenders to complete between forty and 240 hours unpaid community work in lieu of a prison term. In order to complete this comparative analysis, administrative data pertaining to all cases sentenced to a short term of imprisonment or CSO between 2011 and 2012 were linked and analysed. Analysis of offence groups showed that more cases convicted of drug, public order, and robbery or related offences received Community Service than was expected; however effect sizes were small. Findings showed the average number of Community Service hours equivalent to one month of imprisonment differed by offence type and District Court jurisdiction. As the first study of its kind in Ireland, this paper provides a rare glimpse of the use of these two alternative criminal justice sanctions. Findings and their implications are discussed in the article.

To read the article please click here: Irish Probation Journal 


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



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