Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

34 and 35: Effective reintegration of prisoners

Standard 34:

All prisoners have comprehensive preparation and structured plans for release. National policy and legislation provides for a structured release system.

Standard 35:

Protocols are in place for inter-agency co-ordination in order to ensure the successful reintegration of prisoners on release.


Reintegration is more than rehabilitation. Successful reintegration means that the individual is reintegrated into all aspects of society including employment, education and community involvement. A recent domestic study highlights the need to implement four types of rehabilitation previously identified: [699] (1) Psychological (individual-level change) (2) Legal (criminal records and stigma) (3) Moral (reparation of harms caused) (4) Social (restoration of full citizenship). The authors concluded:

In other words, society must meet ex- offenders halfway by providing appropriate structural and criminal justice supports that help desisters to fulfil their potential and experience an authentic sense of social inclusion. [700]

One particular aspect IPRT would like to focus on is having a criminal convictions history. Having a criminal conviction can act as a significant barrier to reintegration. There are a number of good reasons [701] to wipe the slate clean:

Current context:

The importance of reintegration is outlined in the Irish Prison Service’s Strategic Plan 2016–2018, which states that it will ensure “a rehabilitative organisation which supports positive change, improved resettlement and reintegration opportunities for prisoners through targeted action and inter-agency collaboration and support”. [702]

IPRT [703] has highlighted that reintegration should be prioritised in the work of the Probation Service, and that, working in conjunction with the Prison Service, performance indicators could be developed to assess reintegration. Key areas could include securing housing, employment and educational attainment, health, and addressing of substance abuse. In the Joint Strategic Plan 2018–2020, [704] the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service state their commitment to maximising joint working.

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality (2018) also recommended “an inter-agency approach to release is needed to ensure that housing, employment, and addiction services are available to prisoners upon release”. [705] Furthermore in response to recommendations made by the Strategic Review of Penal Policy, an inter-departmental inter-agency group has been established. [706] At the time of publication, this group published its First Report of the Interagency Group for a Fairer and Safer Ireland. [707] We welcome the issues outlined in the report including the need to track the employment experiences of prisoners on release as well as examining whether rehabilitative interventions by the State are working. Other issues identified in the report are the lack of accommodation upon release, provision of medical cards and income supports that can only be achieved through inter-agency working. The report highlights some examples of existing protocols in place between State agencies.

In relation to spent convictions legislation, the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality [708] (2018) called for an urgent review. The Committee highlighted how the current Act was “extremely limited in its application and fails to support rehabilitation of more serious offenders”. [709] The current limitations of spent convictions legislation in Ireland continues to act as a barrier to employment for individuals upon release: [710]

The potential impact of convictions on individuals’ life chances has increased as mandatory vetting has become more widespread. Even where vetting is not required, internet search engines render criminal histories easily accessible to curious third parties. In the other direction, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) have developed privacy and data protection principles which require states to limit the availability of information about old convictions. [711]

The authors also highlight how the legislation does not contain any anti-discrimination provision, so that employers can currently discriminate on the basis of a spent conviction. [712]

As highlighted earlier [Standard 15: Privacy], a new European Union Regulation, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), provides for a right to be forgotten. Further review is needed in order to assess how GDPR and Spent Convictions legislation will work together.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 34/35

Indicator S34.1: The existence of a reintegration policy and/or legislation for prisoners: There has been no progress on the establishment of a reintegration policy or legislation since 2017. However, IPRT welcomes the publication of the First Report of the Interagency Group for a Fairer and Safer Ireland.

Indicator S34.2: The review and expansion of spent convictions legislation: There has been no review or expansion of the spent convictions legislation passed in 2016. Post-enactment scrutiny was published by the Department of Justice and Equality in 2017,with the Department stating that it is estimated that over 80% of convictions become spent after seven years. [713]

Progressive Practice:

Inter-Agency Working: Joint-Agency Response to Crime (J-ARC)

J-ARC is a joint initiative between An Garda Síochána, the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service. [714] J-ARC has been rolled out in new areas including Waterford, Limerick and Dundalk. [715] There is also a new Youth J-ARC for young offenders aged 18–21 in Cork and Dublin. The Department of Education and Tusla are also involved in this programme. [716]

The Irish Prison Service is also linked in with INTREO, [717] which sees IASIO [718] resettlement co-ordinators agree a programme plan with the individual. In terms of housing needs assessment, there is one point of contact in every area. However, while local authorities are engaging in identifying accommodation for those with high risk or need, deficits remain in the provision of access to wraparound services. [719]

Freedom Bakery, Scotland

Freedom Bakery is a bakery employing individuals currently in prison or recently released. [720] Prisoners are provided with training and receive qualifications in baking, making them employable not only in Freedom but in other bakeries. Around 80 businesses buy the Freedom range of breads and pastries.

Spent Convictions

In neighbouring jurisdictions, the maximum custodial sentence eligible to become spent is 30 months in Northern Ireland and 48 months in England and Wales, compared to just 12 months in Ireland. [721]


‘Kickstart’ is a new jobs initiative set up in 2018 by the Probation Service, which matches grants of up to €30,000 to organisations providing employment for people with criminal convictions. [722]

Actions required:

Action 34.1: Legislation and policy must be developed that provides clarity on release and enables greater access to supports upon release.
Action 34.2: Legislators should review the spent convictions legislation introduced in 2016 with a view to expanding its application, including provision on anti-discrimination.
Action 35.1: Inter-agency co-operation by stake- holders including the Irish Prison Service, the Probation Service and community-based organisations is vital and should be a priority and mandated to ensure successful reintegration.


IPRT Irish Penal Reform Trust


Copyright 2019 Irish Penal Reform Trust. CHY number: 11091

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