Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

For the most recent report from the Progress in the Penal System annual project, visit the Irish Penal Reform Trust website.

Progress in the Penal System: 2020 (‘PIPS 2020’) is a comprehensive report by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) on Ireland's penal system over 12 months (published January 2021).

PIPS 2020 is the 4th annual edition of the PIPS report. Unlike previous editions, PIPS 2020 takes a different approach to assessing progress. We remain dedicated to achieving the 35 standards assessed in previous years, but it was not possible to measure progress in the same way during the pandemic. This edition examines 12 standards. Previous editions are available through the menu on the top right-hand side.

The chapters of the PIPS 2020 report can be accessed using the navigation to the right. Alternatively, browse the report by theme below.

An 'at a glance' assessment of progress across 12 PIPS 2020 standards is also included below.

PIPS 2020: Themes

Thematic Area 1: Reducing the use of imprisonment

Thematic Area 2: Prison Conditions and Regimes

Thematic Area 3: Physical health and mental health

Thematic Area 4: Oversight, accountability and complaints

PIPS 2020: Are we making Progress?

Show/Hide tables

Thematic Area 1: Reducing the use of imprisonment

Standard Theme Assessment Rationale
S1 Progressive penal policy Progress Several penal reform commitments are included in the Programme for Government. The Department of Justice published evidence-based reviews and facilitated open consultations on various strategies. PIPS standards informed the Framework for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland.
S2 Imprisonment as a last resort Mixed The annual trend of sending people to prison for short sentences continued in 2019.
S10 (Updated) Pre-trial detention as an exceptional measure Regress The remand population has increased by 21% since 2017.

Thematic Area 2: Prison Conditions & Regimes

Standard Theme Assessment Rationale
S9 Single cell accommodation Regress Before the pandemic, additional bed capacity was created in three prisons in Ireland.
S11 Family contact Mixed

The roll-out of video calls nationally and in-cell phone provision in some parts of the prison estate are welcome innovations.

Children and families had little or no in-person visits with their family member in prison due to public health restrictions.


Out of cell time

Regress Out-of-cell time was significantly reduced for the prison population due to the Covid-19 restrictions. The general prison population also had reduced daily out-of-cell time, averaging six hours.
S26 Solitary Confinement Regress

Based on Census figures, solitary confinement increased from 40 in January 2019 to 75 in January 2020.

One hundred twenty-seven people were on a restricted regime of 22 or more hours per day in April 2020; this number includes medical-related isolation.

Thematic Area 3: Healthcare

Standard Theme Assessment Rationale
S12 Healthcare Progress

The Irish Prison Service must be commended for keeping Covid-19 out of prisons during the initial lockdown.

The prison health needs assessment is significant for informing long-term healthcare policy in Irish prisons.

S13 Mental healthcare Mixed

The establishment of a Taskforce between the Department of Health and the Department of Justice to address the prison population’s mental health and addiction needs is welcome.

There continues to be a similar number of prisoners awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hospital (CMH) as there was in 2019.

Thematic Area 4: Oversight, Accountability, and Complaints

Standard Theme Assessment Rationale
S22 Complaints system No change While the Irish Prison Service has made changes to the internal complaints system, it has not met its implementation timeline.
S23 Independent complaints and appeal mechanism No change Prisoners still have no access to an independent complaints and appeals mechanism.
S24 Inspections & monitoring Mixed

Some positive developments include additional resourcing of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons, the publication of the Framework for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland, and commitments in the Programme for Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) and reform prison visiting committees.

The absence of published inspection and monitoring reports is acute during a time of a national and global emergency.

Irish Penal Reform Trust


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