IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #30

31st January 2006

VOICES RISING - Volume 4, Number 1

IPRT contributes to new book by the World Health Organization

The IPRT has contributed a chapter to a new book published this month by the World Health Organization's Regional Office for Europe. 

The book, entitled "HIV/AIDS in Europe: Moving from death senetnce to chronic disease management", tells the story of HIV/AIDS in Europe from a broad variety of perspectives: biommedical, social, cultural, economic and political and contains contributions from over 30 experts from across the region.

IPRT Executive Director Rick Lines and Prof. Heino Stover of the University of Bremen, Germany were invited by WHO Europe to contribute a chapter is entitled "Silence Still = Death: 25 years of HIV/AIDS in Prisons".

The book is available in PDF format at the website of WHO Europe.

IPRT student juvenile justice essay contest winner announced

The IPRT is pleased to announce the winner of our first student essay contest.  This contest is conducted in collaboration with the LLM Masters in Criminal Justice Programme at University College Cork.  The objective of the contest is to promote and reward student scholarship in Ireland specifically in the area of juvenile justice.

We congratulate David Cowhey, whose essay was selected by the UCC/IPRT selection committee for this year's award.  Mr. Cowhey's essay will be available  shortly on the IPRT website. 

IPRT presentations in January

The IPRT gave two public presentations in January. 

Executive Director Rick Lines spoke on the issue of penal reform at Sinn Fein's conference on Justice and Policing in Belfast. The IPRT was part of a panel on justice policy which included representatives of the Irish Council for Civil Liberities and the Committee for the Administration of Justice.  Other speakers at the conference included Profs. Phil Scraton and Paddy Hilliard of Queen's University Belfast and Dr. Paul O'Mahony of Trinity College Dublin.

Later in the month Mr. Lines gave a presentation on harm reduction in prisons to students in the NUI Maynooth Addiction Studies Programme. 

European Prison Rules adopted by Council of Europe

At their first plenary meeting of 2006, the Ministers' Deputies adopted a new recommendation updating the Recommendation on the European Prison Rules, taking into account the recent caselaw of the European Court of Human Rights and the standards developed by the Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT).

CANADA: New Report Calls on Federal Government to Decriminalize Prostitution

In a report released today, the Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network called for the federal government to decriminalize the practice of prostitution and ensure that the health, safety and human rights to which all people in Canada are entitled are also shared by sex workers.

The Canadian HIV/AIDS Legal Network is Canada's leading advocacy organization working on the legal, ethical and human rights issues raised by HIV/AIDS. The Network promotes the human rights of people living with and vulnerable to HIV/AIDS, in Canada and internationally, through research, legal and policy analysis, education, and community mobilization.

"Having sex for money is legal in Canada, but sex workers can't do their jobs legally or safely because of this country's outdated criminal laws," said Glenn Betteridge, Senior Policy Analyst and principal author of the report. "These laws, and the way in which they're enforced, push sex workers into situations that put their health and safety at risk, and leave them open to stigma and discrimination, violence, and possible exposure to HIV."  

Currently, the criminalization of prostitution puts sex workers under constant threat of arrest, meaning they often have less time to assess the risk of taking a particular client or to negotiate terms (like insisting on safe sex). Criminalization also pits police and sex workers against each other, effectively alienating sex workers from the protective services of police if, for example, a client becomes aggressive or violent.

"We need to respect sex workers, not persecute them, and we need to focus on improving their living and working conditions," said Claire Thiboutot, Executive Director of Stella, a Montréal-based support and information group organized by and for sex workers. "This report explains why the laws have to be changed and why the changes need to be based on solid evidence, including evidence from sex workers themselves."

Among the 10 recommendations in Sex, work, rights: reforming Canadian criminal laws on prostitution, the Legal Network is calling on the federal government to:
  • Protect sex workers' rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and international human rights law by repealing the four Criminal Code sections that make "communicating," "bawdy-houses" and "living on the avails" illegal;
  • Recognize sex work as work under employment standards and occupational health and safety laws; and
  • Include sex workers in the policy and law reform process. Sex workers must have a say in modernizing the laws and policies that affect them.

The report is the culmination of a two-year project on criminal law, prostitution, and the health and safety of sex workers in Canada. It included consultations with sex workers, sex worker organizations, public health and social science experts, and community-based organizations.

Click here to access the full report along with a concise plain-language booklet and a series of 10 information sheets.


New Jersey General Assembly passes bill to suspend executions

Trenton - By a 55 - 21 vote, the New Jersey General Assembly today approved S-709/A-2347, legislation calling for an immediate moratorium on all executions in New Jersey and creating a study commission that will examine the flaws in the State's current death penalty system. The bill passed the Senate with a 30-6 vote on December 15, 2005. Today's Assembly action means New Jersey moves one step closer to becoming the first State in the nation to legislatively impose a moratorium on the death penalty.

"By its action today, the Assembly joins the Senate in signaling deep concern that the State's death penalty system isn't working," said Celeste Fitzgerald, Director of New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty, a statewide organization that advocates replacing the death penalty with life without parole. "By any measure, the death penalty has failed the people of New Jersey, who have come to know that it risks executing the innocent, is unfairly applied, fails victims' families and law enforcement, and wastes millions of taxpayer dollars."

"The independent and bipartisan commission proposed in this legislation will address those serious issues in our State's first comprehensive study of the death penalty," said Fitzgerald, who also noted that polls show the moratorium bill enjoys widespread public support.

An April 2005 public opinion survey by the Rutgers Bloustein Center for Survey Research indicates that fully two-thirds of state residents (63%), including a majority of those who say they support the death penalty, favor a temporary suspension of executions.

As required by S-709, the new study commission shall be composed of 13 members and will submit its findings by November 15, 2006. It will examine critical issues such as racial and geographic bias, cost, risk of wrongful execution, and whether alternatives exist that will both ensure public safety and address the needs of victims' families.

New Jersey's action comes amidst a growing chorus of concern about the death penalty across the country. Cases have been re-opened in Missouri and Texas because of evidence that those states may have executed innocent men. A Virginia death sentence was commuted to life in prison without parole after DNA evidence was destroyed in the case. And voices including the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, the editorial board of Alabama's largest newspaper, and the President of the Ethics and Religious Liberties Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention have recently expressed concerns about capital punishment.

New Jerseyans for Alternatives to the Death Penalty (NJADP) is a statewide grassroots organization with over 10,000 members that since 1999 has campaigned for an end to the death penalty in New Jersey. It is the core group of more than 200 New Jersey organizations, representing interests such as labor, justice, education, business, human rights, and virtually every religious denomination in the state.