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Ebulletin #53

16th December 2009

In this edition:

  1. Seasons greetings!
  2. IPRT Briefings: Overcrowding in Prisons; Mental Health in Prisons
  3. Prison Law Seminar Series - Mental Health in Prison
  4. Detention of Children - International Standards and Best Practice
  5. IPRT in the News
  6. Children’s Mental Health Coalition
  7. Council of Europe anti-torture Committee: visit to Ireland in 2010
  8. New Journals
  9. Upcoming Events

Holly1. Season's Greetings

Welcome to the sixth and final IPRT e-bulletin for 2009. This has been an exciting year for IPRT, with the addition of three new staff, the move to new premises on Ormond Quay, and the invaluable support from our interns: Trish Connor, Brittany Desmarais, Aoife Drudy, Marian Deady, Michelle Martyn and Martin Quigley.

This year, IPRT published five position papers, two briefing documents, and one research report, Detention of Children in Ireland: International Standards and Best Practice. We hosted three Prison Law Seminars, and the Open Forum event in June. We became a member of the Children’s Mental Health Coalition, and we participated in a briefing for the All Party Penal Reform Group in the Oireachtas.

We made a joint submission with FLAC and ICCL to the UN Human Rights Committee 1-year review on recommendations made by it in 2008, and we participated in the follow-up conference to the ICCPR Shadow Report; we built-on our alliances, we forged new relationships, and we answered queries from prisoners’ families, academics, students, researchers and members of the public. We relaunched our website in May, and made our first forays into social networking media. We also managed to organise our filing system and library – probably the most impressive feat of all!

It has been year of landmarks within the prison system with the prison population rising to over 4,000 for the first time in the history of the State. The Inspector of Prisons published revealing reports on prison inspections and standards which we will hope will mark an important staging point in addressing some of the long-standing egregious human rights issues within our prisons. The decision to suspend work on the Thornton Hall project may also prove to be a most significant development and we hope that it will present an opportunity to reconsider the planned expansion of our prison estate – a mistake that we believe would be hugely damaging to Ireland for decades to come.

However, on the more positive side, in 2009 we did see the concepts of and principles of “penal reform” creep steadily into the language of policy-makers and the media. The revised Programme for Government contains a section on penal reform and contains an express commitment to ensuring that imprisonment is only used as a last resort for less serious offenders. The Government is bringing forward a number of progressive initiatives in this regard with the Fines Bill 2009 as well as legislation relating to imprisonment for debt and the opportunity for the development of better policies through the White Paper on Crime. We are optimistic that many of our messages are being taken up and that there is a growing potential for a progressive shift in penal policy in Ireland.

We wish you all a very happy festive season, and wish you all a fulfilling and peaceful 2010,

IPRT Board and Staff

Are you a member of IPRT?

One of the ways that you can support penal reform in Ireland, is to become a member of IPRT.

Don’t forget to keep to date on IPRT news and activities between e-bulletins:

W: www.iprt.ie
Tw: www.twitter.com/iprt
Fb: www.facebook.com/irishpenalreformtrust

2. IPRT Briefings: Overcrowding in Irish Prisons; Mental Health in Prisons

IPRT has published new briefing papers on Overcrowding in Irish Prisons and Mental Health in Prisons (preliminary.) IPRT is committed to dissemination of clear information on the evidence surrounding progressive penal reform. These documents are intended to summarise the main policy issues in the relevant areas and provide an accessible platform for advocacy work on those issues.

For more information, contact Agnieszka Martynowicz, IPRT Research & Policy Officer, at: research@iprt.ie  

3. Prison Law Seminar Series - Mental Health in Prison

The fourth in our Prison Law seminar series took place in Dublin on November 19th, 2009 on the topic 'Mental Health in Prison.' The speakers were:

  • Dr Conor O'Neill, consultant forensic psychiatrist, Central Mental Hospital
  • Mr Dara Robinson, Solicitor
  • Mr Sean Gillane, SC

Dr Conor O'Neill’s papers, which he presented at the seminar, are available from IPRT. Please contact: info@iprt.ie  

The Prison Law seminar series is hosted jointly by Irish Penal Reform Trust, the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, and seminars qualify for Continuing Professional Development for both solicitors and barristers.

4. Detention of Children - International Standards and Best Practice

The new IPRT research report, Detention of Children - International Standards and Best Practice, is now available online. IPRT gratefully acknowledges the support of the Irish Youth Foundation in funding this research project and final report.

The report was launched on 30th November 2009 in Dublin. Speakers at the event were Dr Ursula Kilkelly (Chairperson, IPRT), Agnieszka Martynowicz (Research & Policy Officer, IPRT) and Mat Crozier (Young Voices Co-ordinator, Include Youth.)

More about the event, including presentations and photo’s, is available here.

For a hard-copy of the report, please contact: info@iprt.ie

5. IPRT in the News – some highlights

On 16th and 17th November, following an interview with Mr Justice Richard Johnson in The Irish Times, there was a minor media frenzy over whether the death penalty should or even could be reintroduced! Liam Herrick went some way towards restoring reason across Newstalk FM, Phantom FM, Red FM and KFM.

On Monday 30th November, the launch of the IPRT children detention report, the Irish Examiner included an analysis piece by Dr Ursula Kilkelly “Behind Bars No Place for a Child”. A news item on the children detention report, “Call to stop imprisoning children” and an editorial piece “Child criminalisation - Children need safety” appeared in the same edition. The same day, Liam Herrick talked to 4FM’s Lunchtime about the detention of children, and Dr Ursula Kilkelly spoke to RTÉ’s Drivetime about the report.

On Tues 1st December, an article “End jailing of boys at St Patrick's, say campaigners” by Carl O’Brien appeared in The Irish Times. The Human Rights in Ireland Blog and the Irish Left Review blog also included lengthy features about the report.

For links to our media activities, see: www.iprt.ie/iprt-in-the-news

6. Children’s Mental Health Coalition

IPRT is one of 38 organisations who have been brought together by the Children’s Rights Alliance and Amnesty International Ireland to form the Children’s Mental Health Coalition. The newly formed Coalition launched a manifesto and website www.childrensmentalhealth.ie on 15th December to demand action from the Government.

7. Council of Europe anti-torture Committee: visit to Ireland in 2010

On 3 December 2009, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) announced that they will visit Ireland in 2010 (see press release here.) The Irish Penal Reform Trust is currently preparing a submission to the Committee and hope to have an opportunity to meet with its delegates when the visit takes place next year.

We would like to invite anyone who has information about conditions and/or issues regarding the situation in Irish prisons that should be brought to the attention of the CPT to pass on such information for inclusion in the submission. You can do so by contacting Agnieszka Martynowicz, IPRT’s Research and Policy Officer at: AMartynowicz@iprt.ie or tel: (01) 874 1400.

Any information received will be treated in strictest confidence and no sources will be identified in the submission. Should you have any questions regarding the submission, or have any other queries, please don’t hesitate to contact Agnieszka. We will send out updates on any developments regarding the visit as soon as more details are known.

8. New Journal: Irish Human Rights Law Review

The inaugural issue of the Irish Human Rights Law Review, to be published annually by Clarus Press and edited by Donncha O'Connell, contains articles by national and international experts as well as case notes by academics and practitioners. The Review is intended to reflect the growing importance of Human Rights Law in Ireland and should be of interest to practitioners, academics, lawyers working in the public and private sector and NGOs.

The inaugural issue features articles by Justice Michael Kirby, formerly of the Australian High Court, Dr. Alpha Connelly, former CEO of the Irish Human Rights Commission, Colm O Cinnéide of University College London and Professor Pat Dolan, Marie McGonagle, Ciara Smyth and Dr. Padraic Kenna of NUI Galway. For further information see: http://www.claruspress.ie/ihlr.html  

9. Upcoming Events

From 31st May – 4th June 2010, the International Human Rights Network will host training in Justice Sector Reform: Applying Human Rights Based Approaches on NUI Maynooth campus. For more information, contact: PHarney@ihrnetwork.org  

Irish Penal Reform Trust
4th Floor, Equity House, 16-17 Upper Ormond Quay, Dublin 7
T: +353-(0)1-874-1400 E: info@iprt.ie W: www.iprt.ie

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

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