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Ebulletin #50

6th July 2009

In this IPRT e-bulletin:

1. Introduction
2. Stay up to date with IPRT
3. New in Research and Policy
4. 3rd Prison Law Seminar: ‘Sentencing and Procedure in Youth Justice Cases’
5. ‘Re-imagining the Role of Prison in Irish Society’
6. IPRT AGM 2009
7. Do Better Do Less – Report of the Commission on English Prisons Today
8. The Prison Journal – call for papers
9. IPRT in the News
10. Upcoming Events

1. Introduction

Welcome to the third IPRT e-bulletin of 2009, in which we report on a number of recent IPRT events including the Open Forum on ‘Re-imagining the Role of Prison in Irish Society Today’ and the 3rd in the Prison Law Seminar Series, which focused on aspects of sentencing and procedure in youth justice cases. These inspiring events were extremely successful, drawing large highly-engaged audiences together, and the learning from each will inform the work of IPRT in the areas of penal policy and youth justice over the next two years.

Other news includes forthcoming position papers and research from IPRT, a call for papers to be included in a special edition of The Prison Journal on ‘Prisons in Ireland', and highlights from IPRT’s recent media appearances.

Irish Penal Reform Trust
4th Floor, Equity House,
16-17 Ormond Quay,
Dublin 7, IRELAND

Tel: +353-(0)1-874-1400

2. Stay up to date with IPRT

• Subscribe now to our RSS feeds
• Read our Director's Blog
• Ask your friends and colleagues to sign up to our e-bulletin
Become a member!

3. New in Research and Policy

In the next month, IPRT will be publishing three new Position Papers:

1. Human Rights in Prisons
This paper will look at the principles and concepts that underpin human rights law as it applies to prisoners and prison conditions. The paper will outline the main relevant international human rights standards and provide examples of how they are interpreted in the practice of international monitoring bodies, as well as discuss the impact of such intepretation on the Irish prison policy and practice.

2. Penal Policy with Imprisonment as a Last Resort
This paper will outline IPRT’s underststanding of and position on the use of imprisonment as a criminal sanction of last resort. The paper will discuss concepts such as ‘penal moderation’ and ‘reductionist penal policy’, as well as the wider implications of the continuous expansion of prisons in Ireland versus the call for the use of this sanction strictly in cases where no alternatives are available.

3. Planning the Future of Irish Prisons Linked to the paper on the use of prisons as a last resort, this paper will discuss the principles and evidence base that should underpin the debate in Ireland on the future size of prison population and prison estate. The paper will attempt to link the quantitative arguments about the physical size of Irish prisons with the wider questions of criminal justice policies and the impact of political decision-making on the situation in Irish prisons.

Also forthcoming from IPRT in August 2009 is a Research Paper:

‘The Detention of Children: Lessons to be Learned from International Standards and Other Jurisdictions’
Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by Ireland in 1992, requires that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child should be a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time. As long as detention exists as an option, places of detention for children should aim to maximise their chances of rehabilitation and integration into society by providing a humane, safe and secure environment whereby the offending behaviour of children can be addressed, where children will be assisted to make better choices about their lives during custody and on their return to society.

This research paper considers how these aims can best be achieved in the Irish context. It also seeks to influence the debate on the design and best practice policies in the new National Children Detention Centre to be built at the Oberstown Campus in Lusk.

The paper is divided into two parts. The first part discusses the context of the detention of children in Ireland, outlines international standards applicable to detention of children, and provides comparative analysis of a number of youth detention systems in Europe. The second part looks at specific standards relating to a number of practice areas (such as physical environment and accommodation; personal and social development; health care provision; staffing requirements, etc.) and highlights examples of good practice, both in Ireland and in other European countries, which may serve as guidance for the development of policy and practice in the new National Children Detention facility. The paper then makes a number of detailed recommendations.

For more information about any of the new publications, please contact: Agnieszka Martynowicz, IPRT’s Research and Policy Officer at research@iprt.ie or Fíona Ní Chinnéide, IPRT’s Communications and Campaigns Officer at communications@iprt.ie

4. 3rd Prison Law Seminar: ‘Sentencing and Procedures in Youth Justice Cases’

The third in our Prison Law seminar series took place in Dublin on June 30th on the topic ‘Sentencing and Procedures in Youth Justice Cases’. IPRT co-hosts this series with the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitor’s Bar Association. As with our previous seminars, the event was a great success with over 115 practitioners in attendance.

The two main speakers at the event were Gráinne O’Neill BL and Catherine Ghent Solicitor. Dr Ursula Kilkelly, IPRT chairperson, was also scheduled to speak but had to withdraw due to illness. However, Ursula submitted a written paper which provided an overview of the Children Act 2001 and highlighted some the issues arising in the implementation of the Act in recent years. Catherine and Gráinne addressed some of the key practical issues facing solicitors and barristers representing young people in both the criminal and social care contexts before the courts. While it was acknowledged by all speakers that the introduction of the Children Act has marked a significant advance in the legislative scheme of dealing with young people in conflict with the law, Gráinne and Catherine gave a fascinating if somewhat depressing picture of the failure of the legal system to adequately vindicate the rights of the most vulnerable children coming before them.

IPRT intends to use the learning from this seminar to inform its work in the area of youth justice, a priority for IPRT over the next two years. (See above.)

View the IPRT Director's Blog for Liam’s reflections on the Seminar.

For more information on upcoming events, including further Prison Law Seminars in autumn 2009, please continue to check: www.iprt.ie/upcoming-events

5. ‘Re-imagining the Role of Prison in Irish Society’

Penal moderation is more successful – in terms of economic and social value – in creating a safer society. This was the clear message sent out by leading international prisons experts as part of the IPRT Open Forum event, ‘Re-imagining the Role of Prison in Irish Society’ which took place in June. Another key focus of the discussion centred on the need for political leadership to bring about a more rational and evidence-led penal policy.

As part of the event, Professor Andrew Coyle of King’s College London and Professor Fergus McNeill of the University of Glasgow presented the work of the Commission on English Prisons Today (final report published 2nd July 2009, see below) and the Scottish Prisons Commission (report published July 2008), respectively. Following the presentations, Jimmy Martin, Assistant Secretary of the Department for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and Professor Ian O’Donnell of the Institute of Criminology at UCD joined Brian Purcell, Director General of the Irish Prison Service, in a discussion how the learning from Scotland and England might be of relevance and value to policy-makers here. The capacity audience included members of the Oireachtas, government officials, academics, prison staff, lawyers and a wider range of community groups working with offenders.

‘Re-imagining the Role of Prison in Irish Society’ created a much-needed space for a debate on the future direction of penal policy in Ireland. For presentations from the event, please click here.

6. IPRT AGM 2009

The Annual General Meeting of IPRT took place in the Chester Beatty Library on June 18th, in advance of the Open Forum on the future of Irish Prisons. Dr. Ursula Kilkelly and Liam Herrick presented the Chairperson’s and Director’s annual reports and set out the main activities of IPRT over the year. Three of our longstanding board members stood down this year: Tony Geoghegan, Patricia Brazil and Samantha Priestley. Ursula thanked all three for the huge contribution to the development of IPRT over a long number of years. She also welcomed Christine Littlefield and Johnny Connolly, who were elected onto the Board along with the remaining existing Board members.

IPRT relies on the support of its members to carry out its work. For more information about becoming a member of IPRT, please click here.

7. Do Better Do Less - report of the Commission on English Prisons Today

“Less crime, safer communities and fewer people in prison should be an achievable future. Our report sets out a vision for how we get there.” - Professor David Wilson, the Commission’s Chair.

The final report of the Commission on English Prisons Today, Do Better Do Less, has been published (2nd July 2009.) The product of a two-year long inquiry commissioned by the Howard League for Penal Reform, the report takes a radical look at the purposes and limits of a penal system and how it should sit alongside other social policies.

Do Better Do Less: The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today advocates a new approach of penal moderation and fundamental reform, including:

  • A significant reduction in the prison population and the closure of establishments
  • Investment in the localities that currently produce prisoners to reduce crime
  • The replacement of short prison sentences with community-based responses
  • The dismantling of the National Offender Management Service (NOMS), including the break up of the centrally managed prison service
  • With local authorities as lead partners, the Commission suggests local strategic partnerships should be formed that bring together representatives from the criminal justice, health and education sectors, with local prison and probation budgets fully devolved and made available for justice reinvestment initiatives

For further information, see: www.prisoncommission.org.uk

Do Less Do Better: The report of the Commission on English Prisons Today is available, priced £15.00, via www.howardleague.org

8. Call for Papers: The Prison Journal

The Prison Journal: An International Forum on Incarceration and Alternative Sanctions will publish a special edition on Prisons in Ireland. The Special Edition on ‘Prisons in Ireland’ will accept articles on prisons, prisoners, prison officers, gender, psychology, young offenders, training, recidivism, restorative justice and rights issues pertaining to the prison systems in the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. Articles from other jurisdictions which have a relevance to Ireland or Irish prisoners will also be considered.

Papers must be submitted by September 1st 2010 to be included in this Special Edition.

The Prison Journal Special Edition on ‘Prisons in Ireland’ will be edited by the Prison Journal’s Senior Editor Prof. Rosemary Gido, and Co-Edited by Dr. Liam Leonard of Sligo Institute of Technology. E: leonard.liam@itsligo.ie

9. IPRT in the News

Links to highlights from IPRT media coverage over the past weeks:

On 27th May, the Fingal Independent outlined IPRT’s position against prison expansion and our belief that we now have an opportunity to rethink penal policy, following the collapse of plans to build Ireland's largest prison at Thornton Hall.

Following a series of incidents over a 24-hour period at Mountjoy Jail, Liam was invited to talk on issues of overcrowding on Today FM’s ‘The Last Word’ and RTÉ’s ‘Morning Ireland’ (12th June).

On 19th June, the Irish Examiner included news on the Open Forum event; the Examiner also published an 800-word Opinion Piece by Liam entitled ‘Hunt for a better solution to Crime’. On 19th June, Clare FM also interviewed Liam at length on the findings of the Open Forum event.

RTÉ’s ‘This Week’ reported on issues surrounding youth justice and children detention centres on 21st June; Dr Ursula Kilkelly, IPRT Chair, and Prof Fergus McNeill contributed.

On 22nd June, IPRT commented on issues surrounding drugs in prisons in the Irish Independent; this story was picked up by Shannonside Northern Sound and Midlands FM, who invited Liam to talk on the issues.

10. Upcoming Events

The University of Utrecht ‘Summer School on Juvenile Justice’ takes place from July 17th to 27th, 2009.

On September 25th, the Department of Applied Social Studies, University College Cork will host a conference entitled ‘Boom to Bust: Irish Social Policy in Challenging Times’.

All articles are copyright 2009 Irish Penal Reform Trust, unless otherwise noted.

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