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The Bill will amend the Criminal Justice (Community Service) Act 1983 and aims to encourage the greater use of community service orders as an alternative to prison as a sentence for those who are convicted of a minor offence.

The motivation for expanding the numbers for community service orders was a result of the findings of a Value for Money and Policy Review of the Community Service Scheme (published October 2009) that found that operating at full capacity, supervision services could be provided to three times as many offenders. Offenders who would be suitable for community service are instead serving prison sentences, often for minor offences. Increasing the use of community service will deliver substantial financial savings as it is a considerably cheaper sanction than imprisonment. It benefits offenders by diverting them from prison allowing them to maintain ties with family, friends and community, including continuing in education or employment. Communities throughout the country will benefit from the unpaid work carried out by those serving community service orders

The Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Dermot Ahern stated that “If only 10% of those offenders who were sentenced in 2009 to terms of imprisonment of up to six months were instead subject to a community service order, the projected savings to the exchequer would be in the vicinity of €14m to €17m.”

A CSO can require between 40 and 240 hours of work by an offender who would otherwise face a prison sentence.