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24th February 2005

VOICES RISING - Volume 3, Number 2

Nils Christie to deliver IPRT Annual Lecture

The IPRT is pleased to announce that the world-renowned criminologist Nils Christie will be our guest for the 2005 IPRT Annual Lecture.

Nils Christie is a Professor of Criminology in the Faculty of Law at the University of Oslo in Norway.  His influential books include "Limits to Pain", "Crime Control as Industry", and "A Suitable amount of Crime".  His books and articles on crime and prisons have been translated into many languages.

Prof. Christie will be speaking on the topic "Crime Policy as Cultural Policy". The lecture will be held Thursday April 7th at European Union House, 42 Molesworth Street and will begin promptly at 6pm.  Admission is free.

The IPRT Annual General Meeting will immediately follow the lecture.

IPRT 2005 Annual General Meeting

The IPRT's 2005 Annual General Meeting will be held on Thursday April 7th at European Union House, 42 Molesworth Street. 

The AGM will begin at 7:00pm immediately following the IPRT Annual Lecture by Prof. Nils Christie.

IPRT assists UN in drafting new global policy on HIV in prisons

On February 17th and 18th, IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines travelled to Vienna to participate in the Consultative Meeting on HIV/AIDS Prevention, Care and Support in Prison Settings, organised by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).  The meeting of 40 experts from Eastern and Western Europe, Africa, the Middle East, North America, the Carribbean and Australia was organised to assist the UN in drafting new global policy on HIV in prisons. 

In advance of the meeting, the IPRT was retained by the UNODC to help draft background materials and a framework strategy for discussion at the meeting.  We will now work with other international colleagues to finalise the documents based upon the feedback from the meeting before submitting them to the UN.

Said Mr. Lines, "It's certainly unfortunate - and indeed ironic - that the IPRT's expertise on HIV and drugs policy in prisons is welcomed by the United Nations yet is ignored at home.  The UN's willingness to invite non-governmental organisations such as ours to give meaningful input into policy development stands in stark contrast to the closed and secretive policy development process followed by our own Justice Minister."

IPRT to speak at 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm in March

IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines has been invited to speak at the 16th International Conference on the Reduction of Drug Related Harm, which will be held in Belfast in March.

Mr. Lines will be presenting research on the effectiveness and safety of prison syringe exchange programmes as part of a panel on prison health on March 22nd.  He has also been invited to particpate in a conference plenary debate entitled "Can harm reduction and drug-free services co-exists and cooperate in the prison setting?" on March 23rd.

New research refutes McDowell's call for mandatory minimum sentences

Justice Minister McDowell's calls for the increased use of mandatory minimum drug sentences were dealt a blow by a new report commissioned by the Department of Justice which concludes that current sentencing provisions are working well.

In 2004, Minister McDowell criticised the reluctance of the courts to impose the current 10-year mandatory minimum sentence for supplying drugs worth €12,700 or more.  He has since used this rationale as a basis to call for legislation to expand use of mandatory sentencing.

However, research carried out for the Department of Justice concludes the current sentencing provisions were operating satisfactorily.  "Notwithstanding the reluctance of the courts to impose the minimum sentence the provision would appear to have been reasonably successful in its operation in practice," concludes lawyer and report author, Patrick McEvoy.

IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines noted the research reinforced the IPRT's oppostion to the Minister's mandatory sentencing plans, and called upon him to provide evidence that mandatory minimum sentencing has been effective.  "The evidence from the United States has shown mandatory minimum sentencing to be a dramatic failure at reducing crime and drug use, yet a dramatic success in filling prisons at great financial and social cost to society at large," said Mr. Lines. "Now reseach from the Minister's own Department also questions the need and sensibility of his proposed legislation."

Mr. Lines noted that even the conservative US think tank, the Rand Corporation, was forced to conclude, "Mandatory minimum sentences are not justifiable on the basis of cost effectiveness at reducing [drug] consumption or drug-related crime".  Last year, two Justices of the US Supreme Court separately described the laws as "unacceptable" and "bad policy".   Many U.S. states are now moving to repeal mandatory sentencing laws in the face of the mounting evidence of their failure, and the mounting cost of expanding prison populations that have resulted from their enactment.

"Activists protest death camps for people living with HIV in Russia" - Press release from FrontAIDS

Another beating by the colony administration became the last straw for five prisoners with HIV at Prison No. 1, in Ryazan Oblast who on February 8, 2005 slit their wrists in an act of self-defense from the prison staff.  To 'restore order' the SWAT was called in and visits by relatives were forbidden.

At 10:00 on 20 February 2005, activists of the Russian FrontAIDS movement blocked the entrance to the Ministry of Justice to draw attention to the problems of people living with HIV in prisons.

According to official statistics, in Russia nearly every eighth person registered with HIV, is behind bars. Inadequate nutrition as well as lack of access to antiretroviral therapy mean a death penalty for many of these thousands of people.  The majority of people living with HIV in Russia are drug users who were convicted for possession of small amounts of narcotics within the last 6 years (in accordance with Article 228, Part 1, Criminal Code of the Russian Federation.)  Starting 6 May 2004,  Bill No. 231 which reviewed the amounts of drugs possession of which entail imprisonment should have changed this situation but, according to Department of Corrections, Ministry of Justice, less than half of the people incarcerated for possession of now legally insignificant amounts of narcotics have been released up to date.  In spite of the fact that the government recognized the inadequacy of the older law, today victims of repressive drug laws continue to be in prison condemned to death by a lack of the medical therapy required by Russian law.

Today 15 February, 2005 in a sign of solidarity with those in prison, and with the goal of drawing attention to torture in prison and absence of antiretroviral treatment for people living with HIV, activists approached the Ministry of Justice. 

We demand:

  • The creation of a special commission to review the practices of the prison administration in Ryazan's Prison No. 1.

  • That a Special hearing is of the Russian Parliament reviews the issue of access to antiretroviral therapy in Russian Prisons.





New Report: Racial Disparities in Sentencing: A Review of the Literature

This new report from The Sentencing Project in Washington DC reviews recent studies that examine the effect of race on sentencing in both death penalty cases and non-death penalty cases.

New Report: The Death Penalty in 2004 Year End Report

New report from the Death Penalty Information Center reviews information and statistics on the death sentences and executions in the US in 2004.
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