- Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) - https://pips.iprt.ie -

About (2019)

Progress in the Penal System (or PIPS) is a three-year project of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for progressive reform of Irish penal policy.

The purpose of PIPS is to provide a comprehensive analysis of progress in meeting human rights and reaching best practice in the Irish penal system.

The first PIPS report was published in October 2017, and details 35 standards against which the prevailing situation in Ireland's penal system is being independently tracked, monitored and assessed over a three-year period.

PIPS 2018 provides an assessment of progress over the last 12 months against these 35 standards, and assesses whether Ireland is meeting its human rights obligations and meeting best international practice.


The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) would like to express sincere gratitude to the donor-advised family fund and the Community Foundation for Ireland for providing the financial support which has made the Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) project and this publication possible.

IPRT would like to thank the PIPS Advisory Group: Professor Aislinn O’Donnell (Chair), Professor Ian O’Donnell, Niall Walsh and David Perry BL. Thanks also to the Chairperson of IPRT, Dr. Seamus Taylor and the other IPRT board members who provided feedback on this report. Additionally, IPRT thanks the stakeholders who gave their time and insight in a closed consultation session on PIPS 2019.

IPRT would like to acknowledge the engagement of the Irish Prison Service with the PIPS project, and in particular, Edel Higgins and Alan Callaghan, who kindly co-ordinated and supplied material to inform PIPS 2019.

Ireland as a leading model of international best penal practice is the overall vision of the PIPS project. In its third year, IPRT believes that the PIPS project is gathering momentum among the key stakeholders involved to work towards realising this vision.

IPRT would also like to thank Dr. Avril Brandon for her research support.

Responsibility for the content of the report and any omissions lies with the author and IPRT.

Michelle Martyn,
Senior Research & Policy Projects Manager, Irish Penal Reform Trust

Guiding Principles of Penal Reform

  1. Imprisonment is viewed as a sanction of last resort
  2. Recognition of the harms and costs associated with imprisonment
  3. Adherence to the ‘Deprivation of Liberty’ principle where the loss of freedom is viewed as the punishment
  4. Balance the security and protection of prisoners with provision of a safe and purposeful regime
  5. Protection and promotion of human rights, equality and social justice
  6. Focus on rehabilitation, desistance and reintegration.

Values of the Penal System

List of acronyms

APT Association for the Prevention of Torture
CMH Central Mental Hospital
CoE Council of Europe
CPT European Committee for the Prevention of Torture
CSO Community Service Order
ECHR European Convention on Human Rights
ECtHR European Court of Human Rights
EMCDDA European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction
EPR European Prison Rules
HIQA Health Information and Quality Authority
HSE Health Service Executive
HSU High Support Unit
ICCPR International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights
IHREC Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission
ILSU Independent Living Skills Unit
IOG Implementation Oversight Group
IPS Irish Prison Service
ISM Integrated Sentence Management
MQPL Measuring the Quality of Prison Life
NPM National Preventative Mechanism
OiP Office of the Inspector of Prisons
OPCAT Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture
PICLS Prison In-Reach and Court Liaison Service
PPRG Penal Policy Review Group
POA Prison Officers Association
PQ Parliamentary question
UNCAT United Nations Convention against Torture
VC Visiting Committee
WHO World Health Organization
WTE Whole-Time Equivalent