“It’s no good releasing someone at the gate and telling him ‘have a nice day enjoy the rest of your life’ unless the support is there. Because very often, the first 24-48 hours can be the most daunting for any prisoner and that’s where the probation services kick in – Jim Collins, Governor of Cork Prison




Every year, the Probation service provides in the region of 8,000 reports: both before sentencing and after release from prison. Our job is to ensure that sanctions are tailored according the risk posed by each individual offender - and best suited to assist them rebuild their lives and avoiding reoffending.

Assessing the offender: 

When a person has been convicted of a crime and before sentence is passed, Probation Officers (who are all trained social workers)  prepare an assessment of the individual’s likelihood of reoffending.   Assessing the Risk of Re-offending – this will guide the judge in deciding what  sanction to give.

The report, which takes about 4-6 weeks to produce, involves interviewing the offender - usually in our offices and later at the person’s home - and may include talking to those who are close to them, including family. There are a number of these reports, most notably the Pre-Sanction Report or Probation Report, which will decide whether the offender is suited to a sanction of supervision within the community (probation), rather than a jail sentence.

The interviews will include assessing the seriousness of the crime and the person’s attitude to it - and to the victim; an evaluation of supports available - as well as a formal risk assessment. When required by the courts we also prepare victim reports.

Below are the options available to the judge:   

More information on sentencing and types of sentencing can be found at: Information on sentencing and Types of sentencing.


A Community Service Report will decide whether the individual is suited to doing work in the community as a

instead of a jail sentence which can also be an option presented to the judge. 

A brief guide to what to expect when placed on a Community Service Order



After sentence is complete:

Post-custody supervision As well as supervising offenders who have been placed on probation directly by the courts, we provide different types of post-custody supervision, ie after a person has completed a prison sentence,  

Supervised temporary release: The Probation Service supervises prisoners on temporary release from custody (as provided for in the Criminal Justice Act, 1960 and the Temporary Release Act, 2003) in the community with specific conditions providing for their supervision by the Service.

Post release supervision order Under the Sex Offenders Act, 2001, Judges can sentence sex offenders to a period of supervision following their release from prison.  Such offenders are monitored closely and the work of the Probation Officer focuses on the offence committed and its implications for public safety, helping the offender to see the past offending behaviour as a problem, and developing strategies and supports to ensure there is no repeat offending.

Conditional suspended sentence: This is a sentence that’s suspended on condition of probation supervision.

Prisoners who have served a life sentence remain under supervision for the rest of their lives





“The relationship between the probation officer and the offender is absolutely vital. It takes time. It takes perseverance . –Dermot O’Connell former senior Probation officer



This is the main role of the Probation Officer – however supervising the offender, and ensuring they do not breach the terms of a Probation Order is just one part of the role.  When an individual is under supervision  a Case Management Plan is put together and offenders attend regular scheduled meetings with the Probation Officer who will assist them in identifying the root causes of their offending and help them develop strategies to avoid falling back into the same destructive pattern of behaviour. This may include putting the individual  in contact with groups outside the service to help them with issues such as anger management or substance misuse.   Generally there is seldom one isolated reason for offending.  It is more usual that there are a number of converging elements that lead people into criminality.  Our officers work to unlock these elements and to refocus offenders away from these paths. Liaison with family and others continues to identify potential sources of support.  In essence, it is a collaborative process which though usually challenging for both parties  can have a transformative impact on individual and their lives.



 If you have received a Probation order:

You promise the court to: Be of good behaviour, avoid further crime, following the Probation Officer’s instructions and inform the court of any change of address. There may also be some additional conditions attached to the order such as attending a training course or treatment clinic or residing in a hostel.

What court makes these orders? District courts can make these order for up to three years – but higher courts can order longer periods.

What happens if orders are not followed? If the person does not comply with the requirements of the order the Probation Officer may return the case to court - and that could result in the individual being jailed.

Discharging a Probation Order If someone makes good progress while under supervision, the Probation Oficer may consider applying to the court to have the order discharged early.

As well as direct work with offenders to change anti-social attitudes and offending behaviour, the Probation Service helps offenders to address other issues that are often linked to offending:

Substance abuse issues;

Mental health difficulties;

Relationship problems;

Accommodation needs;

Education, training and employment deficits; and

Basic social skills.

All of these can have a bearing on an individual’s ability to turn their life around for the better and away from crime.

Support services for offenders




The work of the Probation Officer also takes place within prisons, where they advise and assist offenders on strategies to avoid offending when they come out, explore the root causes of their offending and motivate them to change and successfully reintegrate when they are released. They’ll also assist community-based bodies at providing services aimed at prisoners, their families and communities and provide assessments for the Department of Justice and Equality, Irish Prison Service and Parole Board.


For further information on our work in prisons: What we do in Prisons


Relevant acts: Criminal Justice Act, Temporary Release Act, Sex Offenders Act

For all the relevant legislation linked to the Probation Service:





This programme gives offenders, whom the prison service and Probation Officers have assessed as suitable and suitably motivated, the opportunity of early - and renewable - temporary release.  It is available for people who have been assessed as posing no threat to the community; are serving more than one year and fewer than eight years and who have served at least 50% of their sentence.  The programme is offered in return for supervised community service.  among the beneficial outcomes of this scheme is shifting the balance of the criminal justice system away from incarceration and toward crime prevention and paying back to the community.