Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

1.1 Introduction: A Vision for the Penal System in Ireland

Progress in the Penal System (PIPS): A framework for penal reform (2017)[90] was published in October 2017, the first in a series of annual PIPS reports. The report outlined a clear vision for the future of the penal[91] system in Ireland. It set out standards, informed by international human rights standards and best practice, and developed indicators to track progress on a yearly basis.

The purpose of the PIPS project is to inform a wide range of stakeholders about the current state of the penal system. The target audience includes criminal justice professionals, policymakers, legislators, politicians, media and the general public. The overall aim of the PIPS project is to inspire stakeholders to lead and work towards a progressive penal system. It asks stakeholders to reflect on their own and each other’s roles and responsibilities, engage in the PIPS process, and act on opportunities for change.

Ireland as a small and wealthy nation has the potential to be a leading model of international best penal practice. This can be achieved through the implementation of IPRT’s PIPS standards. However, the collaboration and commitment of stakeholders is crucial to achieving the implementation of these standards.

PIPS 2018 examines the progress made on each of the standards and is an opportunity to identify both progress achieved and what remains to be done. This year’s report also includes more examples of innovative penal practice, both domestic and international.

PIPS 2018 continues the examination of the penal system across the following themes:

Three key issues are under the spotlight: Mental Health; Women (a new standard which has been added to the report in 2018); and Staff, Training and Relationships. IPRT believes reform and resourcing in these three areas must be prioritised over the coming year. The rationale as to why these key issues are important is outlined in the relevant sections.

Children in detention are intentionally not included in this report. While children in detention form part of the penal system, the system itself has gone through tremendous change with the ending of imprisonment of children at St. Patrick’s Institution in 2017.[92] Children should, be treated differently and also benefit from additional human rights treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. IPRT continues to work on reform and improvement of the youth justice system separately from this project.

PIPS 2017[93] set out the origins of the project, including the process for setting the standards and indicators, and should be read as a complementary document. Notwithstanding, the principles and values that underpin the entire PIPS project and IPRT’s general work are reiterated here:

PIPS 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.

IPRT’s Values of the Penal System

These principles and values are grounded in penal theory and research; a number of other bodies have identified similar principles and values.[94] These principles and values continue to inform PIPS 2018. Finally, this second edition of PIPS sets out to answer the key question: Are we making progress in our penal system? The concluding chapter answers this question and suggests where we need to go next.


IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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