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Ebulletin #56

28th April 2010

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. Flora Women’s Mini-Marathon
  3. New in Research: Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland
  4. Recent Events
  5. IPRT in the News
  6. White Paper on Crime – Second Discussion Document
  7. Howard League: “Less Crime, Safer Communities, Fewer People in Prison”
  8. Employment Opportunities
  9. FLAC Launches Irish Human Rights Law Review
  10. Upcoming Events

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1. Introduction

The third IPRT e-bulletin of 2010 sees IPRT getting ready for the launch of our latest report, which focuses on the reintegration of prisoners in Ireland. Alongside the report, we are pushing for Spent Convictions legislation to be enacted in 2010 – Ireland is now 26 years behind our nearest neighbour in providing such legislation, not to mention most other European countries. We feel strongly that to bring Spent Convictions legislation into force during 2010 would be an easy way for the Government to demonstrate its commitment to the principles of the European Year for Combating Poverty and Social Exclusion. Watch this space.

Other forthcoming events include IPRT’s AGM and side-event in June – this promises to be a very different and exciting event; currently the event is still shrouded in a cloak of secrecy, more details to follow soon – while recent events include the fifth seminar in our Prison Law Series on the topic of Irish prison law and the European Convention on Human Rights (22 March) and an Oireachtas Seminar on Community Sanctions (31 March.)

Since the last Ebulletin, Liam has posted three blog entries, covering issues from the treatment of publicly reviled offenders, the lessons the Strangeways riot didn’t teach Ireland (but should have), and the use of temporary release to relieve overcrowding. With the numbers in custody at 4,164 (14th April 2010), not including those out on temporary release – a rise of 315 prisoners (8%) over the past 12 months, and this is still in advance of the peak crowding season in summer – the situation which was already serious last year is far worse now. 

In one of the most significant developments within the Prison Service for some time, Kathleen McMahon has apparently resigned as Governor at the Dóchas Centre after 10 years as a result of the chronic overcrowding at the prison.  At the time of writing there is some dispute as to whether she has officially resigned from her post, but what is not in dispute is her serious public misgivings about the current situation in Dóchas and the direction of policy towards women prisoners.

At the same time, there are reports of a tidal shift in the U.S., where latest figures show the first fall in the state prison population in almost 40 years, with reductions across 26 states - “an important contributor is that states began to realize they could effectively reduce their prison populations, and save public funds, without sacrificing public safety.” Read the Prison Count 2010 report here.

Finally, IPRT staff, interns and a board member are doing press-ups on the office floor in training for the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon! Support us in our endeavours – see below.

The IPRT Team

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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 up to date on IPRT news and activities between e-bulletins:

W: www.iprt.ie

Tw: www.twitter.com/iprt

Fb: www.facebook.com/irishpenalreformtrust

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2. We’re running (and walking) for Prisoners’ Info!

Team IPRT is walking and running the 2010 Flora Women’s Mini Marathon on 7th June to raise funds for our Prisoners Information Project. So far, we have recruited one Board member, two interns (as if they don’t do enough already!), two staff members, and two volunteers from our membership.

IPRT has identified a knowledge gap in the system, whereby prisoners and their families are often completely in the dark about the process, and their rights. With an increasing number of direct enquiries being made to IPRT, we have resolved to do something of a permanent and substantial nature so as to ease the pain and confusion for many who themselves enter the prison system, or for families unsure of what happens when a loved one goes to prison.

For those of you who don’t fancy walking or running 10 kilometres, you can sponsor us online at http://www.iprt.ie/sponsor-form and support us in fundraising to provide information for prisoners and prisoners’ families.

For more information, see: http://www.iprt.ie/marathon2010


3. New in Research: Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland

In May, IPRT will publish a new report, focusing on the reintegration of prisoners in Ireland. The research study has been carried out over the past 6 months and engaged with a wide range of consultees including service providers as well as former prisoners. The report discusses the situation in Ireland in the context of increasing prisoner numbers and recent cuts in financial resources available to statutory and non-statutory bodies charged with providing assistance to prisoners in preparation for release. The report will highlight the positive changes that have taken place in recent years in this area, as well as making a number of recommendations for further improvement. Full details about the launch will follow next week.

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

For more information about the launch, please contact Mary Gaffney, IPRT Office Manager, at: info@iprt.ie


4.  Recent Events

Prison Law Seminar Series
The fifth in our Prison Law Seminar Series took place in Dublin on Monday 22nd March, focusing on the issue of the European Court of Human Rights in the context of Irish prison law. The speakers were Anna Austin of the Registry of the European Court of Human Rights and James MacGuill, solicitor and former president of the Law Society.

Read more:

Oireachtas Seminar

On Wednesday 31st March, IPRT held its third seminar for the Oireachtas All-Party Penal Reform Group, this time addressing the use of Community Sanctions.  Chairing the event was Senator Ivana Bacik, and our speakers were Prof Ian O’Donnell of the UCD Institute of Criminology and Dr Mairead Seymour of the DIT School of Social Sciences and Law.

Mairead Seymour spoke about the politicisation of criminal justice issues and appealed for the use of the logic argument to convince people that ‘tough talk’ policies weren’t working; Ian O’Donnell highlighted the depressing circularity of the debate on community sanctions, citing the successive reports which urged a reduction in our dependence on prison, recommendations which were consistently ignored.

The consensus amongst those in attendance centred on the necessity of engaging the judiciary in the effective implementation of community sanctions and the proper investment behind such schemes so that they are no longer subject to a geographical lottery.

Read more:


5.  IPRT in the News – some highlights

On 7th April, Liam spoke on TodayFM’s ‘The Last Word’, along with Fine Gael spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Charlie Flanagan on the inefficiencies of the prison system, as demonstrated by the case of an inmate transported between Kerry and Dublin on the matter of a tax disc.

Also in April, IPRT issued a media release on the issues of women in prison. On 13th April, Liam was interviewed on ‘The Last Word’ again in relation to this, speaking on the differential treatment of prisoners based on gender with Brenda Power. The radio interviews on women in prison continued throughout the week with Liam later speaking on both Shannonside Radio and then Highland Radio’s Sean Doherty show on the 14th and 15th April respectively.

On 19th April, Liam talked to 4FM’s David Harvey on ‘Lunchtime on 4’ about the use of temporary release as pressure-release valve for overcrowding in prisons. Liam also addressed the issue in a blog entry.

Following the resignation of the Dóchas Centre Governor, Kathleen McMahon, on Monday 26th April Liam spoke to RTÉ News (TV and radio), UTV Radio News (Q102, FM104, etc) and Newstalk FM; the IPRT press release was also picked up by the Irish Examiner and the Irish Independent the following day.

On 27thApril, Liam spoke on RTÉ’s ‘Drivetime’ and ‘The Late Debate’, again on the issue of McMahon’s resignation and wider issues of prison conditions, speaking also on Newstalk’s ‘The Right Hook’ on the issue of Community Service Orders.

In The Irish Times on Wednesday 28th April, the Women in Prison Reform Alliance, of which IPRT is a member, submitted a letter commenting on Governor McMahon’s resignation and conditions in the Dóchas Centre.

For links to our media activities, see: www.iprt.ie/iprt-in-the-news or contact Fíona, IPRT Campaigns & Communications Officer.


 6. White Paper on Crime Second Discussion Document - 'Criminal Sanctions'

A reminder that the closing date for submissions for the White Paper on Crime Second Discussion Document - 'Criminal Sanctions'is end May, 2010.

Read more:


7. Howard League: “Less Crime, Safer Communities, Fewer People in Prison”

The Howard League for Penal Reform has recently launched a new campaign: “Less Crime, Safer Communities, Fewer People in Prison” is attracting a host of supporters, both famous and otherwise, and is putting forth its four clear priorities – Investing in the Community, Ending Short Prison Terms, Justice for Children and Real Work in Prison. Visit the Howard League website to learn more and sign up for the campaign.


8. Employment Opportunities

The UCD School of Law is currently recruiting for the position of Lecturer in Criminology. The successful candidate’s responsibilities would include the creation of modules in both criminology and criminal justice and the delivery of lectures to undergraduates and graduates, the supervision of graduate students and the publication of research in line with the School’s academic mission. The deadline for applications is 23.30hrs on Monday 17th May 2010.


9. FLAC Launches Irish Human Rights Law Review

FLAC, through its new Public Interest Law Alliance initiative, is launching the Irish Human Rights Law Review on Thursday 20th May at 5.30pm in The Morrison Hotel (The Art Gallery), Ormond Quay, Dublin 1. The review, which is to be published annually, is being launched by the Ombudsman Emily O’Reilly, and is edited by Donncha O’Connell, currently of LSE. Also speaking at the event is FLAC’s own Michael Farrell.

For those wishing to attend, RSVP to PILA to secure your place.

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10. Upcoming Events

  • On 29th April, the CCJHR will hold its IV Annual Postgraduate Conference, on the theme "Borders of Justice: Locating the Law in Times of Transition."
  • On 7th May, the Public Interest Law Alliance (PILA), an initiative of FLAC, will host a seminar on using international law. Colm O’Cinneide of the European Committee of Social Rights and Kate Fox of the UNHCR will speak. See: www.pila.ie or www.flac.ie
  • On 14th May, “Tools for Action: Making Economic and Social Change” takes place at the Carrickdale Hotel in Co. Louth, hosted by the Participation and Practice of Rights Forum. Speakers at the event include Mary Robinson, and more information can be obtained from the website.
  • On 15th May, the ICBA Annual Conference takes place, on the topic “Trial by Media – Media and the Criminal Law”. More information to follow on the ICBA website.
  • On 19th May, the Annual Human Rights Lecture takes place, hosted by the Law Society of Ireland, with Mr Morris Dees as guest speaker. Mr Dees is co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center and champion of civil rights law. Contact Anthea Moore for more information.
  • From 24th to 28th May, the EPEA (Malta branch) is hosting a 1-week course entitled: Training Teachers and Instructors to Teach in Prisons/Detention Centres. For more information, contact Dr. Joseph Giordmaina at: joseph.giordmaina@um.edu.mt
  • 28th May is the deadline for the call for papers for the International Juvenile Justice Observatory’s Fourth Annual Conference, which will take place in Rome on 9/10 November 2010. The theme of the conference is “Building Integrative Juvenile Justice Systems: Approaches and Methodologies Regarding Mental Disorders and Drug Use”.
  • From 31st May to 4th June, 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
  • On 21st/22nd June, the 6th North/South Irish Criminology Conference will take place at the University of Ulster, Belfast Campus.
  • From 23rd to 25th June, the 13th International Conference on Penal Abolition takes place at Queen’s University, Belfast on the theme of “Abolition, Reform and the Politics of Global Incarceration”. Please contact Deaglan Coyle for further information.
  • From 12th to 14th July, the University of Leicester will host the 2010 British Society of Criminology Conference, on the theme of “Human Rights, Human Wrongs: Dilemmas and Diversity in Criminology”. Please send enquiry emails to the conference coordinator.
  • From 8th to 11th September, the 10th European Society of Criminology Conference takes place in Liege, Belgium.

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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