Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

5: Minimum prison security settings (2019)

Standard 5:

Prisoners are detained in the least restrictive prison security settings as determined through risk assessment.


Having access to less restrictive prison security settings is important as it provides for the ‘normalisation’ principle,[167] thus reducing the risk of institutionalisation and facilitating the transition back to life outside prison.[168]

Current context:

Low-security detention facilities were identified as an investment need by the IPS in its Capital Strategy 2016–2021:

For the estate as a whole however there will be a need to significantly upgrade existing, and develop a small number of new open, semi-open or low-security centres in appropriate locations to supplement the minimal existing low-security capacity and its sub-optimal location and accessibility in the country.[169]

No new low-security facilities have been established across the estate in 2018–2019 – this includes independent living skills units (ILSUs), with no new ILSUs set up in this period.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 5

Indicator S5.1: The number of prisoners accommodated in low-security settings.[170]

On 31 May 2019, 661 prisoners out of a prison population of 4,018 were accommodated in low-security settings.

Prisoners accommodated in low-security settings (n.)

Area/Unit Total number of prisoners (as of 31 May 2019)[171]
The Grove and enhanced landings, Castlerea 80
The Progression Unit, Mountjoy 152
ILSUs and enhanced landings 169
Enhanced landings, Midlands 38
Shelton Abbey 109
Loighan House 104
Total 661


There are some areas across the prison estate where prisoners can be accommodated in less restrictive settings. This allows for prisoners to be held in environments that encourage and maintain life skills, thereby reducing the risk of institutionalisation. However, despite it being an objective of the IPS in its Capital Plan 2016–2021, 2018–2019 has seen no increase in the number of low-security centres across the prison estate.

Status of Standard 5: No Change

Actions required:

Action 5.1: The IPS should conduct a review of current security levels and regime levels across the prison estate, with a view to expanding access to less restrictive settings (based on a risk assessment of the prison population).


Irish Penal Reform Trust


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