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Ebulletin #47

19th December 2008

IPRT logo

Introduction

Season's greetings and welcome to IPRT's Winter E-Bulletin for 2008. While there has been a longer than planned delay since our last E-bulletin, the period has been one of the most significant in IPRT's history. After a lengthy process IPRT has secured the support of a new major funder for our work in Atlantic Philanthropies and will soon recruit additional new staff. Recent months have also seen a number of new initiatives such as the establishment of an Oireachtas seminar series on penal reform.
These are exciting times for the organisation, and on behalf of the Board and myself, I would like to thank you for your support in 2008 and look forward to working with you again in 2009.

Liam Herrick
Executive Director
IPRT

Irish Penal Reform Trust
53 Parnell Square West
Dublin 1, IRELAND

Tel: +353-(0)1-874-1400
info@iprt.ie
www.iprt.ie

Major Expansion in IPRT's Work Planned for 2009

IPRT is pleased to announce a significant expansion in our work beginning in January 2009. Having recently secured a significant funding investment by Atlantic Philanthropies, IPRT will be recruiting three new staff in early 2009. We believe that as a small organisation with one full-time member of staff and a voluntary Board of Directors, IPRT can rightly be proud of having "punched above our weight" in recent years.

However, with the added support of Atlantic Philanthropies and the continuing support of Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and our members and supporters, we believe that we will be in a position to achieve the ambitious goals we have set ourselves in our Strategic Plan 2008-2010.

In the coming months we hope to recruit three new full-time staff, to secure new premises and to launch an upgraded IPRT website. We will keep you posted of these developments and look forward to the support of our members and allies as we move forward.

New Positions Available with IPRT

IPRT is pleased to announce three new full-time positions, which it will be recruiting immediately. The three posts are:
1. Research and Policy Officer
2. Campaigns and Communications Officer
3. Office Manager.

In respect of all posts, applicants are asked to submit (i) a completed Application Form; and (ii) a cover letter of not more than three pages, by e-mail only to info@iprt.ie by 5pm on January 23rd and putting "The Selection Committee (NAME OF POST APPLIED FOR)" in the subject line.The Standard Application Form is the same for all three positions.

Any queries in relation to the posts should be directed to the IPRT Office at ph. +353-1-8741400; or e-mail info@iprt.ie
IPRT is an equal opportunites employer

Spent Convictions Bill to be Debated by Dail

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) today warmly welcomes the introduction in the Dáil for second stage debate the Spent Convictions Bill 2007. The Bill is the first initiative to provide for expungement of adult criminal records in Irish law and it will mean that minor offenders will not have to divulge information about a previous criminal conviction. While the Bill is an important step towards removing barriers to offenders' reintegration into society, we have submitted to the Minister for Justice a detailed Position Paper on the issue, which addresses a number of aspects of the Bill, which we believe can be improved on. The Position Paper sets out IPRT's main concerns regarding the Bill.

• The rehabilitation periods proposed of five and seven years (periods when the offenders stays offence-free) are unnecessarily long for a young person who might have committed a minor offence at the age of 18 or 19.

• The Bill will only apply to persons who have served a sentence of less than 6 months and will exclude a large number non-violent offenders.

• At present all civil service, legal and health care work is excluded from the Bill, closing off a significant proportion of the workforce for a person whose offence may have no connection to public safety.

Liam Herrick, IPRT Director called on members of the Oireachtas to take the opportunity presented by the Bill to address in a comprehensive way the complex issues around the reintegration of offenders.

"At present all criminal records are permanent. We need to ensure that a minor mistake in someone's life doesn't lead to permanent exclusion from employment. Research conducted over recent years has shown that there is a cycle of offending in our society, where young men who commit minor offences are drawn into recurring patterns of offending. Supporting offenders in accessing employment to break this cycle is a worthwhile investment by society to prevent future offending. "

Second Lawyers Seminar Planned for February 5th 2009

IPRT plans to hold our second practice seminar on prison law for barristers and solicitors at 5pm, February 5th 2009 at the Distillery Building, Church Street, Dublin 7. Building on the success of our first seminar in May, this seminar will focus on two topics - Legal Aid in Actions by Prisoners; and (ii) the Parole Process. More details will follow shortly.

First Oireachtas Seminar on Penal Reform

On October 16th IPRT hosted the first in what we hope will become a continuing series of seminars for members of the Oireachtas on topical issues of penal reform. The first seminar was on the theme of "Youth Justice" and was presented by Dr. Ursula Kilkelly, IPRT Chair. the seminar was attended by representatives of all parties from both the Dail and Seanad. IPRT believes that this initiative which we are co-hosting with Senator Ivana Bacik will make a great contribution to raising awareness of penal reform issues among our legislators.

Irish Prison Service Report for 2007 Published

The Irish Prison Service today published its annual report for 2007. The report is available online and outlines a number of trends in the prison population, including the increasing number of non-Irish nationals in the prison system and the growing proportion of prisoners serving long sentences.

Chaplains Report for 2008 Published

IPRT warmly welcomes the publication of the Irish Prison Chaplains report for 2008. As in previous years the report provides an authoritative and hard-hitting assessment of the serious problems facing the prison system. Among the serious issues highlighted in this year's report the report points to the deepening overcrowding crisis and the growing problem of inter-prisoner violence. The report also brings forward constructive suggestions for reform of the penal system and highlights examples of good practice that can be built on. The full report can be viewed at http://www.cfj.ie

IPRT welcomes First Interim Report from Inspector of Prisons

PRESS RELEASE
28th October 2008

IPRT Welcomes First Interim Report from new Prison Inspector

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) today warmly welcomed the publication of the first Interim Report of Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly. The Inspector's decision to publish this interim report in advance of his annual report demonstrates both the urgency of the issues he has identified within the prison system and Judge Reilly's commitment to highlighting these issues and to working constructively with prison authorities to address them.

The problems identified as being of most concern to Judge Reilly demonstrate a sophisticated appreciation of the priority issues within the system and reflect the issues that IPRT and international human rights bodies have identified in their work over recent years. These include:
• Prison overcrowding;
• The absence of sentence planning for all prisoners;
• The rising level of inter-prisoner violence;
• The level of drug use in prison; and
• The failure to provide proper levels of treatment to severely mentally ill prisoners.

Liam Herrick, IPRT Director particularly welcomed Judge Reilly's prioritisation of mental health issues in his report:

"This is an issue on which IPRT has been consistently raising, including through litigation, for the past decade and where, despite the efforts of the Irish Prison Service and the Central Mental Hospital, the HSE has consistently failed to make available urgently needed resources. The Inspector's recognition of the right of severely ill prisoners to mental health treatment in an appropriate setting is a landmark statement and we hope that his prioritisation of this issue receives the political attention it demands."

The methods of work adopted by the Inspector and evidenced in his recently published report on Loughan House Prison are particularly impressive and clearly build on the work of his predecessor Judge Kinlen while also incorporating the best practice from similar oversight bodies around the world. Liam Herrick stated

"IPRT has consistently campaigned for robust and well-resourced accountability structures to oversee the prison system and we are hugely encouraged by the work of the Inspector to date. Most significantly, the Inspector has signalled his intention to develop standards for all prisons that will draw on international human rights principles.

We believe that a framework of clear standards and benchmarks will greatly assist the Prison Service and all of us committed to prisoner rights in setting out a practical map for achieving the protection of human rights within the prison system."

IPRT Welcomes Report on Children on Remand

On 26th November, 2008, IPRT warmly welcomed the publication by the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs of a major report into the situation of young people on remand. Speaking at the launch of the report, IPRT Director Liam Herrick said, "IPRT believes that rigorous independent research has a critical role to play in reforming our youth justice system and the Minister deserves great credit for investing in research of this quality. The State's success in breaking the cycle of youth offending at the earliest point has profound significance for those young people and for society. This report shows that opportunities for constructive intervention with young people are being missed during a crucial period while they are awaiting trial."

Among the main findings of the report are that young people on remand do not clearly understand their bail conditions and that bail support is hopelessly inadequate. These gaps in the system must be filled. Coupled with excessively long periods on remand, the failure to monitor and support young offenders on remand means that they are at high risk of re-offending.

The Children Act 2001 recognised that detention of young people causes harm that is not easily reversed. This report shows that the principle of detention as a last resort enshrined in the Children Act is not being respected in relation to remand and that a significant proportion of young people who have not been convicted are being detained for extended periods in St. Patrick's Institution and Child Detention Schools. Liam Herrick said, "Given what we know about the levels of drug use and violence in St. Patrick's Institution, the continuing detention of young people there on remand is difficult to reconcile with the principles of the Children Act or with recent decisions of the European Court of Human Rights. There is an onus on the State to fully explore all alternatives before detaining any young person and we believe that much more can be done to support and monitor young people in the community."

IPRT expresses dismay at resignation of Equality Authority Chief Executive

As a member of the Equality and Rights Alliance, IPRT has been campaigning in recent months against the huge proposed cuts to the budgets of the Equality Authority and Human Rights Commission. Today's resignation of Niall Crowley demonstrates that the Equality Authority is now in a position where it may no longer be viable.
IPRT Chief Executive Liam Herrick stated.

"The principled and brave decision taken by Niall Crowley to resign his position must act as an alarm bell to everyone in Irish society who is concerned with the protection and promotion of human rights. It is clear to the members of the Equality and Rights Alliance that the statutory infrastructure to protect the rights of the vulnerable in society is now being dismantled. The significance of the attacks on the Equality Authority is more profound than simply undermining that body. There now appears to be a wider agenda to remove any public agency that effectively acts as a safeguard against unregulated Government action."

The campaign to support Ireland's rights and equality structures will go on and details of what IPRT members and supporters can do to support this campaign can be found at http://www.eracampaign.org

Membership

Many of you will have recently received receipts for membership fees paid in 2008 and/or notice of membership fees due in 2009. On behalf of the Board and myself I would like to thank all our members for their ongoing support - which is crucial not only in funding our work but also in providing expertise and credibility to the organisation. With the projected expansion in our work, we hope that we will be able to offer our members much more by way of information and resources in 2009.

During the process of updating our membership lists a small number of members may have incorrectly received notice of fees due that already been paid. We hope that any clerical errors have now been rectified and apologise for any inconvenience caused.
Kind regards,
Liam

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