Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

31: Use of Force

Standard 31:

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


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

Current context:

The Irish Prison Service has developed a protocol, Conflict Management Operations and Training, [632] which aims to minimise the use of force. In line with best practice, laws, policies and procedures should be made publicly available and accessible to all staff, internal and external monitors and prisoners. [633] A new IT system has been introduced by the Irish Prison Service to record incidents of control and restraint. [634] This may help identify the frequency of use of such measures.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 31

Indicator S31.1: The number of incidents per prison per year de-escalated through conflict resolution approaches. While this data was not provided, the Irish Prison Service has stated that all prison staff learn de-escalation techniques as part of their training. 119 recruit prison officer received training on conflict resolution in 2018, and 380 staff completed training as part of their continuous professional development in 2018. [635]

Indicator S31.2: The number of incidents per prison per year in the Irish prison estate involving control and restraints. This information was not provided at the time of publication.

Progressive Practice:


Guidance on the Mandela Rules highlights that all staff should receive training on restraints before they begin duty and this should include experiencing instruments of restraint themselves. [636] They should have, as a minimum, training on how to use different instruments of restraint safely, legitimately and proportionately, and how to use force to the minimum extent necessary, including how to determine when the use of restraints is no longer necessary. [637] The Mandela Rules now specify minimum requirements for training including the concept of dynamic security and techniques for defusing violent situations. [638]

Restorative Practice in Prison-Based Settings, [639] HMP Buckley, England

Restorative practice is used in HMP Buckley, a young offenders’ institution, to resolve conflict among prisoners and staff. Trained prisoners and staff host restorative meetings to resolve low- level conflicts. Formal restorative conferences are used for more serious matters. Joint staff and prisoner meetings take place to share knowledge about restorative practice. Since 2017, restorative approaches have been used in 56 cases of conflict. [640] The project has helped improve relationships and values between prisoners and staff.

Restorative Justice and Staffing: Belgium

Research [641] has highlighted that while there is no set formula for employing restorative practice in prisons, one common requirement is additional training and education for prison staff. One example of this has been the employment of restorative and therapeutic justice consultants in Belgium to commence, implement and oversee restorative practice, with the justice consultants reporting directly to the Governor of the prison. [642]

Actions required:

Action 31.1: The Irish Prison Service should collate and publish data on the use of restor- ative mediation and conflict resolution, as well as on control and restraint interventions and their outcomes.
Action 31.2: All prison staff should be trained in restorative justice-based approaches.


IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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