Home > Progress in the penal system: the need for transparency (2021).

Irish Penal Reform Trust. (2022) Progress in the penal system: the need for transparency (2021). Dublin: Irish Penal Reform Trust.

PDF (Progress in the Penal System: The need for transparency)

Since 2017, the PIPS project has set out a clear vision for the future of the penal system. From the outset, the overall purpose of PIPS has been to promote and assess progress across a broad range of issues in Ireland’s penal system, guided by a set of 35 standards. The reality is, however, that accessing data that relates to the various standards has often been challenging. In this fifth edition of PIPS, the 2021 report reflects on the past five years of monitoring the Irish penal system – the progress made, the areas where little change has been effected, and the issues about which we still have a limited understanding due to a lack of data. While remaining committed to the achievement of all 35 standards, this edition of PIPS focuses on 13 interacting standards that track a person’s journey through the penal system, from the point of imprisonment through to release.

PIPS 2021 carries out this reflective exercise under one unified theme: The Need for Transparency in the Penal System. The standards reviewed in PIPS 2021 are organised by four thematic areas:

  • Monitoring the Use of Imprisonment
  • Assessing the Operation of the Prison
  • Ensuring the Focus is on Desistance
  • Supporting Return to the Community

PIPS 2021 strives to address the lack of and/or deficiencies in data for monitoring progress in the penal system by identifying specific areas of inadequate data under the above standards and setting realistic data expectations. The need for quality data collection, recording and publication is highlighted throughout this report and is crucial for the proper evaluation of progress in the penal system going forward.

Standard 14 - People with drug and alcohol addictions are diverted from the criminal justice system to receive appropriate treatment. Where imprisonment is the only appropriate response, treatment must be made available within prison, with a continuum of care upon release.

PDF p.6 - There was insufficient information on drug and alcohol use / treatment services in Irish prisons to make an adequate assessment of progress under Standard 14 – Drug and Alcohol Treatment. On the basis of the little information PIPS did manage to gather, however, there appeared to be no change in this standard between 2017 and 2021.

PDF p.16 - Standard 14: Drug and alcohol treatments summary: In 2021, patients who wished to avail of drug treatment services in Irish prisons had access to counselling, treatment and training. However, there were limited harm reduction options available to people in prison. The primary harm reduction intervention in Irish prisons was in the form of consultations with healthcare professionals around drug use and the prescription, dispensing and administering of opioid substitution treatment. Further to this, harm reduction education was carried out by the Irish Red Cross. However, people in Irish prisons had no access to needle exchange facilities or naloxone (except for on release from prison and in emergency situations).

PDF p.39-43 Section on Standard 14 – Drug and alcohol treatment 

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