The Irish Prison Service is committed to managing custodial sentences in a way which encourages and supports prisoners to live law abiding and purposeful lives as valued members of society. In order to achieve this aim the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service have a multi-agency approach involving considerable resources devoted to offender management and rehabilitation from pre- to post-imprisonment in order to reduce re-offending and improve prisoner outcomes.
Where the Courts have ordered the post-release supervision of offenders on completion of sentence, or in the case of life-sentenced prisoners released on reviewable conditional release by the Irish Prison Service, prison-based Probation Officers complete appropriate risk assessments to inform future case management. This case management is undertaken by Probation Officers in the community for the duration of the specified community sanction.
The Community Return Programme is an incentivised early release scheme co-managed by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service. It commenced in October 2011 and is now operational in every county and from every prison in the State. The Programme has been supported by the reallocation of resources and key personnel from within both services.
The Programme targets well behaved prisoners serving sentences of between 1 and 8 years imprisonment who are making genuine efforts to desist from reoffending. Prisoners serving sentences of less than one year are ineligible for Community Return and may instead be considered for release under the Community Support Scheme. Persons serving sentences of over 8 years generally fall within the Parole Board process. The legislative basis for making decisions on temporary release is fully set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003. Each application is considered on its individual merits and in line with the legislative provisions.
Integrated Sentence Management
The Irish Prison Service Integrated Sentence Management process is a prisoner-centred, multi-disciplinary approach to working with prisoners with provision for initial assessment, goal-setting for engagement with a range of prison-based services, and periodic review to measure progress. There are 24 Integrated Sentence Management Coordinators across the prison Estate. These 24 ISM Coordinators work with prison management and the prison-based multi-disciplinary team, which includes the Psychology Service, the Education Service, the Work Training Service, the Chaplaincy Service, the Probation Service, the Resettlement Service, the Addiction Service and the prison Healthcare team. The Integrated Sentence Management process is currently being reviewed to further improve the process for persons in custody.
Preparing for Release
The Irish Prison Service works with the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO) to provide two operational services, the ‘Gate’ Service and the Resettlement Service. The ‘Gaining Access to Training and Employment’ (GATE) Service is a vocational service that offers guidance counseling and placement supports to referred prisoners with the overall aim of securing a placement in training or employment post-release. The Resettlement Service is a primary needs resettlement support service for prisoners with less than 18 months left to serve. The Resettlement Service provides one-to-one support from the prison to the community, assisting prisoners to access housing and welfare supports on release.
In 2016, the Irish Prison Service introduced a new central information platform on the Prisoner Information Management System (PIMS) where both ISM Coordinators and members of the multi-disciplinary team can record a range of information with regard to ongoing sentence management for individual prisoners and raise post-release concerns. This centralised information-sharing resource will assist prison-based services to improve the transition from custody to the community for offenders with the overall aim of reducing risk to the individual and reducing risk of re-offending post-release.
The Irish Prison Service are actively engaged with senior management in the Department of Social Protection and Department of Environment with an overall aim of establishing a protocol between departments for the case management of offenders who are at risk of homelessness.
It is the aim of the Irish Prison Service that all releases from Irish prisons and places of detention are planned releases to ensure the informed and effective transition of the offender from prison to the community, in compliance with statutory, legal and sentencing provisions.