Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

31: Use of Force (2019)

Standard 31:

Prison protocols emphasise de-escalation and conflict resolution approaches. Use of force and restraint are measures of last resort.


The use of force should always be a measure of last resort. This is of particular significance to many groups, such as children and women in prison, who have often experienced trauma in childhood. Use of force risks re-traumatisation.

Current context:

The IPS has commenced publishing data on the number of restraint incidents across the estate, which IPRT welcomes.[521]

Current prison officer training includes: de-escalation techniques; control and restraint (level 1); advanced control and restraint; and critical incident negotiation. In 2018, 188 recruit prison officers were trained in de-escalation techniques and control and restraint training. A total of 539 prison officers undertook de-escalation techniques as part of continuous professional development (CPD). To date in 2019, 94 recruit officers and 355 prison officers have undertaken training in de-escalation techniques and control and restraint as part of CPD training.[522]

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 31

Indicator S31.1: The number of incidents per prison per year de-escalated through conflict resolution approaches.

This information is not collated.[523]

Indicator S31.2: The number of incidents per prison per year in the Irish prison estate involving control and restraints/restraint interventions.

The table below outlines the number of recorded restraint interventions. These are instances where prison staff use restraint interventions against a non-compliant prisoner.

Number of recorded restraint interventions by prison, 2017 and 2018 [524]

Prison 2017 2018
Arbour Hill 0 0
Castlerea 4 11
Cloverhill 15 17
Cork 11 12
Dóchas (female) 0 11
Limerick 10 17
Loughan House 0 0
Midlands 7 12
Mountjoy (male) 15 21
Portlaoise 2 2
Shelton Abbey 0 0
Wheatfield 12 23
PSEC 15 11
OSG 0 0
Total 91 137


IPRT welcomes that the number of restraint interventions are being recorded by the IPS. 2018 saw an increase compared in the number of restraint interventions compared to 2017. This increase could be for a number of reasons; for example, it may relate to improvements in recording systems. It is important that all prisons are recording the number of restraint interventions accurately to reflect the true extent of the use of restraint across the prison estate, and to identify trends. IPRT welcomes progress in the publication of these data.

Status of Standard 31: Progress

Progressive Practice:

Restorative justice

In 2019, a restorative justice strategy for Ireland was published as part of a cross-European project by Maynooth University, European Forum for Restorative Justice and[525] A statement of principles included in the strategy suggests the need for all persons working in the criminal justice system to be aware of restorative principles and practices so that they are confident in applying these skills on a daily basis. One action outlined in the strategy is that criminal justice agencies should work with training providers to create CPD courses on restorative practice.

Actions required:

Action 31.1: Specific training in restorative practice and how it applies on a day to day basis should be made available to all prison staff.


Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2024 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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