Minister Flanagan welcomes progressive achievements of Irish Prison Service and Probation Service in 2017



7 June 2018


The Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD, has today welcomed a range of progressive achievements by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service in 2017. The achievements are detailed in the Annual Reports of the two services which have been acknowledged by Government and will be published, along with the Joint Irish Prison Service / Probation Service Strategic Plan 2018-2020, in the coming weeks.


Noting some of the key achievements, the Minister said: “2017 was a significant year for the Irish Prison Service. The closure of St Patrick’s Institution as a place of detention ensured that children are no longer held in the adult prison system for the first time in Irish history. This was a key Government commitment and a huge achievement for all involved.


A further important change was an amendment to the Prison Rules which has brought Ireland into line with the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, known as the ‘Mandela Rules’, in respect of restricted regimes and solitary confinement. We have seen a very significant drop in the number of prisoners on solitary confinement (22/23 hour) from 72 in Q1 of 2017 to just 9 in Q4. Indeed, since 2013 we have witnessed a huge drop in this cohort decreasing from 211 in 2013 to this figure of 9 at the end of 2017.”


The impact of the Fines legislation, which removed imprisonment as the default penalty for the non-payment of a court ordered fine, can be clearly seen in a large reduction in the number of people committed to prison. The number of committals for the non-payment of a fine reduced from 8,439 in 2016 to 2,261 in 2017, a reduction of 73%. This change was the main driver behind an overall reduction of 40.5% in the number of persons sent to prison from 12,579 in 2016 to 7,484 in 2017. Of those, 85.5% were male and 14.5% were female. In total there were 9,287 committals to prison during the year, a decrease of 38.5% on the 2016 total of 15,099. Excluding the fines cohort, other committals were broadly static with an increase of 1.4%.


The Minister added: “We must continue to ensure that violent offenders and other serious offenders are committed to prison while at the same time switching away from prison sentences and towards less costly non-custodial options for non-violent and less serious offenders. The increase in the application of the Community Service Order sanction in 2017 is very welcome in this regard.”


There were 2,215 Community Service Orders managed by the Probation Service in 2017 compared with 2,067 in 2016, an increase of approximately 7%. These orders totalled 336,573 hours of work, equating to over €3m of unpaid work for the benefit of communities nationwide. Women offenders represented 16.1% of all new referrals to the Probation Service in 2017 and female offenders represented 9.8% of all Community Service Orders made.


206 prisoners completed the Community Return Scheme in 2017, with a compliance rate of almost 90%. 2017 also saw the continued development and expansion of the Joint Agency Response to Crime (J-ARC), an interagency approach to targeting prolific and high impact offenders in order to reduce reoffending. J-ARC was rolled out to the new areas of Waterford, Limerick and Dundalk and Youth J-ARC was also launched, targeting young people aged 16-21 years who are the most prolific offenders in their area (Gurranabraher and Mayfield in Cork and Blanchardstown in Dublin).




Note for editors


Joint Irish Prison Service / Probation Service Strategic Plan 2018-2020

The third joint strategy between the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service will be published in the coming weeks and will set out an ambitious set of actions to achieve improved outcomes to the benefit of Irish society.


The Strategic Objective is to have a multi-agency approach to offender management and rehabilitation from pre to post imprisonment in order to reduce re-offending and improve prisoner outcomes. The Strategy is underpinned by a recognition that the costs of re-offending by ex-prisoners can be devastating and long term and are frequently felt by the most vulnerable in our society.


Key statistics from Prison Service Annual Report (excluding fines)


Key statistics from Probation Service Annual Report