Irish Penal Reform Trust

Probation Service Annual Report 2019

5th August 2020

The Probation Service Annual Report 2019 was published by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, on 5th August 2020. Key figures from the report are available below.

One of the successes detailed in the report is the opening of the Outlook Women’s Programme in May 2019. The facility was developed through partnership between the Probation Service, the Irish Prison Service and Focus Ireland. The programme, provides support services with accommodation for women post custody or on Probation Supervision, offering opportunities to support their re-integration in the community and safely rebuild relationships with family and children. IPRT has been calling for a step-down facility for women on release from prison for many years. (See Standard 32 of IPRT’s PIPS report for more information on better responding to the distinct needs of women in the justice system in Ireland.)

While the number of Community Service Orders (CSOs) made in 2019 was an increase on the 2018 figure, IPRT remains concerned at the number of CSOs handed down in comparison to the number of short prison sentences. Despite the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Act 2011 requirement for judges to consider the appropriateness of community service as alternative to prison short prison sentences (<12 months) the number of CSOs made in 2019 was 2,791, compared to 4,314 committals to prison for sentences of <12 months. Any increase in CSOs, without a fall in the number of short-term prison sentences, could indicate a widening of the criminal justice net, rather than the use of CSOs as an alternative to custody.

There was an increase in number of CSOs handed out for women from 291 in 2018 to 352 in 2019, however, CSOs for young adults have decreased from 334 in 2018 to 291 in 2019. As IPRT recommended in our submission to the Youth Justice Strategy, in order to better support the diversion of young people, Young Persons Probation should be adequately resourced and extended in order to support diversion and supervise community sanctions for young adults up to the age of 24.

The report details a breakdown of use of CSOs by county, which shows a clear variability in the use of CSOs across court jurisdictions in Ireland. This supports the findings of IPRT’s 2017 report on the use of Community Service in Ireland.

Read the full Probation Service Annual Report 2019 here.

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2019 in numbers:

  • 16,607 offenders were dealt with in the community
  • 2,689 prisoners worked with the Probation Service in 2018
  • There were 2,791 Community Service Orders made in 2019 (compared with 2,499 in 2018)
  • 379,815 hours of community service work were carried out instead of 1,247 years in prison being served; thereby saving over €3.5 million of taxpayers’ money as a result of the unpaid work completed and benefitting communities all over Ireland
  • 16.2% (1,716) of new referrals were female in 2019

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

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