Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

10: Separation of remand from sentenced prisoners (2019)

Standard 10:

Remand prisoners are held separately from sentenced prisoners across the entire prison estate.


Article 10(a) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) makes clear that remand prisoners should be held separately from sentenced prisoners.[212] As remand prisoners have not been found guilty of an offence they should be held separately from sentenced prisoners.

Current context:

There has been an increase in the number of persons being held on remand in custody. As of 31 December 2018, there were 726 persons on remand.[213] This compares to 664 persons on remand on 31 December 2017.[214]

Monthly information notes demonstrate the increasing average number of prisoners held on remand from 2016 to 2018, as outlined in the table below.[215] There was a 24.3% increase in the monthly average numbers on remand from December 2016 to December 2018.

Table: Average monthly number on remand, 2016–2018

Month 2016 2017 2018
January 80 661 661
February 152 661 661
March 517 545 623
April 530 532 670
May 514 555 674
June 511 555 697
July 488 559 674
August 484 561 643
September 549 618 696
October 584 658 725
November 574 685 723
December 547 627 680

Following a Concluding Observation by the UN Committee against Torture (CAT, 2017)[216], the IPS published the number and lengths of time prisoners were spending on remand in 2018.[217].

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 10

Indicator S10.1: The number of remand prisoners held alongside people serving a prison sentence.

Based on snapshot figures by the Irish Prison Service, the total number of prisoners on remand in 2019 who were held alongside remand prisoners mixed with sentenced prisoners is outlined below.

Remand prisoners sharing cells with sentenced prisoners

Institution Prisoners on remand on 14th June 2019 Of whom shared a cell with a sentenced prisoner
Arbour Hill 2 0
Castlerea 67 18
Cloverhill 378 47
Cork 59 35
Limerick 91 44
Midlands 68 46
Mountjoy (F) 34 12
Mountjoy (M) 45 0
Portlaoise 4 4
Wheatfield 0 0
Total 748 206


Approximately 27% of the remand prison population shared a cell with sentenced prisoners in 2019, a slight decrease from 29% in 2018.

The overall increase in the number of prisoners being held on remand demonstrates that imprisonment is not being used as a last resort. More transparent data and deeper analysis is required to understand the reasons for this – for example, whether the introduction of new bail laws such as the Criminal Justice Act 2017 has impacted on these numbers.[220]

Homelessness may also be a factor affecting the increasing number of prisoners being held on remand. In a systematic review of studies that estimate the prevalence of homelessness among committals, an Irish study found that 17.4% or one in six people were homeless on committal.[221] [222] Comparatively, US studies have found rates of homelessness at the time of imprisonment to be 12.4%[223] and 16%. In the UK, estimates of 15% have been made.[224] Homelessness is a particular issue for persons held in Cloverhill Prison:

There is a high degree of homelessness among the prisoners with perhaps as much as one third of prisoners being affected.[225]

In this context, it is important that other bodies, including the Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government, work together to ensure that no one is detained on remand for reasons of homelessness.

Status of Standard 10: Mixed

Progressive Practice:

Progressive practice: Reducing pre-trial detention

Drawing on international standards and its own research findings, Penal Reform International have provided this ten-point plan in reducing pre-trial detention.[219]

  1. Review the breadth of criminal law so that pre-trial detention is not used more widely than necessary.
  2. Ensure international standards underpin legislation on pre‑trial justice.
  3. Where possible, divert cases away from the court system.
  4. Give courts a wide range of release options when defendants appear in courts.
  5. Set amounts of bail money according to the circumstances of the defendant.
  6. Introduce and apply time limits for remands in custody, after which defendants should be reviewed or released on bail.
  7. Provide legal aid and assistance accompanied where necessary, by paralegals to provide advice to defendants.
  8. Establish effective file management to ensure cases do not get lost in the system.
  9. Innovate court practice to reduce delay and detention.
  10. Make efforts to keep women and children out of remand detention.

Actions required:

Action 10.1 The Department of Justice and Equality, in conjunction with An Garda Síochána, the Courts Service, the Director of Public Prosecutions, the IPS and the Central Statistics Office, should compile comprehensive statistics relating to the use of pre-trial detention, with a view to enhancing knowledge and understanding of statistical trends.
Action 10.2: The IPS should use the opportunity presented by the development of new Limerick Prison facilities to achieve separation of remand and sentenced female prisoners.


Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2024 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

Read PIPS 2021
This is the most recent edition
Explore PIPS 2020 and 2019
These are older interactive editions
viewed here