President Patrick Hillery, acting on the then government’s advice, commuted the sentences of the last men sentenced to death in Ireland to 40 years penal servitude. Photograph: Pat Langan

The last men sentenced to death in Ireland were both released late last year. Michael McHugh and Noel Callan murdered Patrick Morrissey, an unarmed G(...)

Mountjoy Prison: former inmate Matthew Gray. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

‘You’re in your cell, looking at four walls. If you need to go to the toilet you have to go in a bucket. You have to urinate in it and do your number (...)

Locked away: we have an ambition to  cut the prison population by a third over the next 10 years. Photograph: PA

Smart justice involves recognising that punishment plays a limited role in preventing crime and protecting communities. It requires a refocusing of at(...)

A prisoner in solitary confinement has his hands shackled before his cell door is opened at a penitentiary in California. Photograph:  New York Times

The US prison system has marked a grim anniversary. This is of the decision, 30 years ago, to impose a state of indefinite lockdown at Marion penitent(...)

A prison officer in the commital unit of Mountjoy Prison, where prisoners spend their first night. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

For some years the prospects for penal reform have been undermined by a sense of pessimism about the possibility of reversing a steady upward t(...)