An article by Gerry McNally.

Sir Walter Crofton, following his appointment as Director of the Irish Convict Prisons in 1854, introduced what has become known as the Irish System in the governance of Convict Prisons in Ireland and the management of convict serving penal servitude sentences. Following the effective ending of transportation to Australia as a sentence in the early 1850s there were serious concerns regarding how to manage the previously transported convicts as numbers grew rapidly.

Based on experimental and innovative work in sentence management on Norfolk Island Prison Colony and innovative systems in France, Germany and Spain as well as the United Kingdom, Crofton devised a system of staged sentence management, intermediate prisons and supervision after release in Ireland, now known as the Irish System.

In the later stages of their sentences convicts who had met behaviour standards in their sentence were transferred to Intermediate prisons at Smithfield and Lusk where they underwent further education and training for release, were tested on short releases or tasks outside of the prison and finally, could be allowed full release to employment under supervision.

James Patrick Organ, a Dublin adult education teacher, was appointed as lecturer at Smithfield and Lusk Prisons with responsibility for preparation for release and supervision of the released convicts. He was appointed as Inspector of Released Convicts in 1855, providing work placements as well as individual support and supervision in the Dublin area. The Irish System, especially the Intermediate Prison, preparation for release and post-custody supervision elements, was extremely successful and lauded internationally. It was a major influence in the development of parole systems in Europe and in America.

James Organ published his lectures in 1858, wrote copious reports on his activities and, with Walter Crofton, published papers for meetings and international conferences. As the first Inspector of Discharged Convicts James Patrick Organ is recognised as the world’s first official Parole Officer (and possibly Probation Officer) and ‘father‘ of the parole systems based on his practice. James Patrick Organ continued very successfully as lecturer at Smithfield and Lusk Prisons and as Inspector of Discharged Convicts until his early death in 1869.

During the 1860’s there was also a significant focus shift in criminal justice policy and practice in the UK and Ireland from reform to punishment. While the Irish System flourished internationally, it withered and died in Ireland following the retirement of Sir Walter Crofton in 1862 and the death of James Organ in 1869; its champions and leaders. Smithfield Prison, the first Intermediate prison closed in 1871.

2019 is the 150th anniversary of the death of James Patrick Organ.

An article titled James P. Organ, the ‘Irish System’ and the Origins of Parole by Gerry McNally will feature in Irish Probation Journal 2019 to be published on November 29th 2019. The article will be available to read and download, for free, on the Irish Probation Service and PBNI (Probation Board for Northern Ireland) websites from November 29th.


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