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Ebulletin #57

4th June 2010

In this edition:
  1.  Introduction
  2.  M-Day – sponsor us!
  3.  IPRT AGM 2010 and Public Forum
  4. Latest Research Report: Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland
  5. Oireachtas Seminar on Spent Convictions
  6. IPRT takes up the Challenge
  7. IPRT Prison Law Seminar Series
  8. IPRT in the News – some highlights
  9. Employment Opportunities
  10. Upcoming Events

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1. Introduction

Welcome to the fourth IPRT e-bulletin of 2010!

On Tuesday 25th May, IPRT launched its most recent research report, “It’s like stepping on a landmine…” – Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland. IPRT was pleased to have a brilliant line-up of speakers at the event, fully illuminating the broad spectrum of challenges facing prisoners upon release. Read more about the launch below.

Spent Convictions legislation continues to be an IPRT priority – the importance of pushing for this legislation was highlighted again by the findings of the reintegration report. Ireland is now 26 years behind our nearest neighbour in providing such legislation, not to mention most other European countries. As part of our push to have the issue prioritised as part of the programme of Government, IPRT held an Oireachtas Seminar on 2nd June to present the arguments for bringing this back to the fore.

April’s e-bulletin reported on the shock news of Kathleen McMahon’s resignation as governor of Dublin’s Dóchas Centre; this month, the e-bulletin reports on the early retirement of John Lonergan, governor of Mountjoy Prison. The early retirement of Lonergan, and the criticisms of former Mountjoy Visiting Committee member Paul Mackay, once again forced the spotlight on the conditions in Mountjoy Prison. Read more below.

Following on from this, this year’s AGM - which will take place on June 28th, 2010 in the Morrison Hotel, Dublin - will be followed by a public forum on prison overcrowding. The chronic levels of overcrowding within the prison system is the most pressing issues facing all of us concerned with the rights of prisoners at present. As highlighted so recently by both outgoing Governors, Kathleen McMahon and John Lonergan, overcrowding has serious negative impact on the rehabilitative function of prison. This forum will hear of the direct impact of overcrowding within the main institutions, as well as exploring in more depth the practical short-term and medium-term solutions to this problem.

Finally, as marathon day draws closer, staff members are hitting peak fitness levels in readiness for the Flora Women’s Mini Marathon! Please support us in our endeavours.

Thanks for your support!

The IPRT Team

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2. Sponsor Us for Prisoners’  Information

M-Day is fast approaching!

As you know, Team IPRT is walking and running (mostly walking) the 2010 Flora Women’s Mini Marathon this Bank Holiday Monday, 7th June, to raise funds for our Prisoners’ Information Project.

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 and support us in fundraising to provide information for prisoners and prisoners’ families. We appreciate any amount, no matter how small. (Alternatively, you can line the marathon route and offer iced goodies to passing IPRT participants!)

Sponsor Us button

Thanks for your support! For more information, see: http://www.iprt.ie/marathon2010

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3. IPRT Annual General Meeting 2010

The 2010 AGM of IPRT will take place on June 28th, 2010 at the Morrison Hotel on Ormond Quay, Dublin. The AGM will be followed by a public forum on prison overcrowding. The forum will hear of the direct impact of overcrowding within the main institutions; as well as exploring in more depth practical short-term and medium solutions to this problem. More information on speakers will follow shortly.

  • IPRT AGM: 4pm
  • Public Forum: 6pm

All members are encouraged to come along to the AGM for a full update on the activities of the year past and the year to come. (The Public Forum is open to all.)

Not a member of IPRT? Annual membership is just €20 for students, €40 for individuals, €80 for organizations/firms, and free to prisoners and their families. We can’t promise you lots of free stuff, but by becoming a member of IPRT you will be expressing your support for urgent penal reform in Ireland.
Why not consider becoming a member now.

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4. Latest Research Report: “It’s like stepping on a landmine…” – Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland

On Tuesday 25th, IPRT launched its new research report, “It’s like stepping on a landmine…” – The Reintegration of Prisoners in Ireland. Speaking at the event were:

  • Joseph, a former prisoner and participant of the Business in the Community (BITC) Linkage Programme
  •  Agnieszka Martynowicz, IPRT’s Research and Policy Officer and co-author of the report
  • Pat Conway, Director of Services for Adults at NIACRO
  • Lisa Cuthbert, Director of PACE

The speakers provided a huge range of insights into the difficulties facing former prisoners. Joseph spoke about his experience of the constructive use of temporary release that made it possible for him to attend college interviews. Joseph also spoke of his fears that he would be reduced to attending interviews while wearing handcuffs. While he was spared this indignity, he recounted the case of a less fortunate man, expected to play guitar while handcuffed to secure a place on a music course.

Lisa Cuthbert outlined the accommodation needs of recently released prisoners, ranging from the short-term, to the very long-term accommodation needed by some long-serving prisoners who do not anticipate returning to their communities. Pat Conway provided information about the current state of reintegration efforts in Northern Ireland, claiming that the report described the situation there as well.

The research study was 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 highlights the positive changes that have taken place in recent years in this area, as well as making a number of recommendations for further improvement.

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

To order a hard copy of the report, please contact Mary Gaffney, IPRT Office Manager, at: info@iprt.ie

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5.  Oireachtas Seminar on Spent Convictions

Senator Ivana Bacik hosted the fourth penal reform seminar for TDs and Senators on ‘life after prison’ on 2nd June, 2010. Facilitated by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, the meeting was held at 11.30am in Leinster House. Speakers were Tina Roche and Lisa Cuthbert.

Tina Roche was appointed Chief Executive of The Foundation for Investing in Communities in January 2000 and established two organisations Business in the Community Ireland (BITCI). She was involved in the NESF Project Team on the Reintegration of Prisoners, which led the NESF report on the topic in 2002. She addressed the seminar on the issue of re-integration of prisoners in the workplace.

Lisa Cuthbert has been Director of PACE for the past ten years and has worked with offenders and within the homeless sector for twenty years. PACE is the largest voluntary organisation in Ireland working exclusively with offenders and ex-offenders. She spoke about the practical issues facing those coping with life after prison and the measures which can be taken to ease the transition between prison and release.

In opening the seminar, Senator Bacik said:

“This seminar is the latest in a series of briefings for TDs and Senators on prisons and penal reform that I have hosted in conjunction with the Irish Penal Reform Trust. There is immense interest in the issue of penal reform among members of the Oireachtas, and I am now proposing to establish an All-Party Working Group on Penal Reform in order to formalise the important connections that have been made during our series of briefing seminars. We hope to place prison conditions and penal reform higher up the political agenda, and to initiate a series of reforms to our penal system.”

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6.  IPRT takes up the challenge!

On 13th May, IPRT responded to the news that Mountjoy Prison’s governor, John Lonergan, was to retire three years ahead of expected. IPRT took the opportunity to issue a press release highlighting the positive steps which could be taken to address Governor Lonergan’s concerns including:

  • Analysis of current practice relating to immigration detainees, women offenders and those imprisoned for traffic offences
  • Analysis of whether a presumptive 10-year sentence for drugs offences is actually impacting on organised crime, or whether it is filling our prisons with low-level actors in the drugs trade
  • Investment in crime prevention strategies and investment in supporting communities at risk of crime
  • Increased use of Community Service Orders
  • Speedy implementation of the Fines Bill 2009
  • Better resourced and better coordinated rehabilitation services and support, both in prison and in the community.

 To read IPRT’s press release, click here.

In related news, the most recent meeting of the All-Party Justice Committee heard from former Mountjoy Visiting Committee member, Paul Mackay, as well as the current chair of the Visiting Committee, Stephen Langton and the Director General of the IPS, Brian Purcell. Read about the Justice Committee meeting here

At the next meeting, the Justice Committee will hear from John Lonergan, Kathleen McMahon, Brian Purcell and IPRT - more to follow.

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7. IPRT Prison Law Seminar Series

The sixth Prison Law Seminar, run in conjunction with the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, will take place on July 13th 2010 at Distillery Building, Dublin 7 and will address the issue of “Litigating Prison Conditions”.  More details will follow shortly.

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8. IPRT in the News – some highlights

The need for improved medical provision in prison was the topic in The Sunday Business Post, on 2nd May, Liam highlighted the physical nature and age of some prisons as a barrier to equal provision of services.

On 8th May, Liam spoke to TodayFM’s ‘The Last Word’ about life imprisonment, speaking alongside AdVic’s Joan Deane for a vigorous debate about the meaning of a life sentence. Liam also spoke on the issue of life sentences on 11th May, on Spin South West FM.

On May 7th and 18th in The Irish Times, IPRT was quoted in relation to the news that parents had been imprisoned for failure to send their children to school. Liam spoke about the devastating effect a short period of imprisonment can have on a family, and encouraged the positive involvement of families with support services as an alternative to harsh custodial sentences.

On May 14th Liam spoke on Today FM’s ‘The Last Word’ again, this time about bail laws. On 23rd, IPRT’s commitment to pursuing spent convictions legislation featured in the Sunday Times. Liam appeared on TV3’s MidWeek on 26th May, speaking about the conditions in Mountjoy Prison, in a programme that also featured John Lonergan and Paul Mackay.

IPRT received a lot of media coverage around the launch of our reintegration report, the report featured in The Irish Times on 25th and 29th May, the Irish Examiner ran with the story on the 26th and 29th May. RTÉ News at One also reported on the reintegration research, interviewing our speakers before the event.

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

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 9. Employment Opportunity at PILA

PILA (the Public Interest Law Alliance) are currently recruiting the position of Project Manager; the successful candidate will implement PILA’s work plan and identify funding opportunities for continuing the work of PILA.  Priorities for the new manager will include the creation of a comprehensive public interest law website resource, a register of lawyers available to engage in pro-bono work and significant capacity building in NGOs working for social justice/human rights for marginalised/disadvantaged people.

PILA was established by FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centre) in 2009 to promote the use of law in the public interest for the advancement and protection of human rights for the benefit of marginalised or disadvantaged people.  The Manager will be charged with fostering a culture of public interest law in Ireland.

FLAC are seeking candidates with relevant third level or professional qualifications, at least two year line management experience, a track record of successful fundraising for a not-for-profit organisations, and a commitment to human rights and social justice issues.

The deadline for applications is 4th June at 5pm, a completed application form and CV should be sent to Noeline Blackwell, Director General of FLAC.

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10. Upcoming Events

  • 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.
  • On 28th June 2010, IPRT will hold its 2010 AGM and annual public forum event. Full details to follow shortly on www.iprt.ie
  • 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.
  • On 13th July, the sixth Prison Law Seminar, run in conjunction with the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, will take place at Distillery Building and will address the issue of “Litigating Prison Conditions”.  Full details to follow shortly on www.iprt.ie
  • From 8th to 11th September, the 10th European Society of Criminology Conference takes place in Liege, Belgium

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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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