IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #59

9th August 2010

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT Conference 2010
  3. IPRT Open Forum 2010
  4. Prison Law Seminar Series
  5. IPRT in the News – some highlights
  6. Now Recruiting: Research & Policy Officer
  7. ISIS Sentencing Database
  8. Upcoming Events 

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1. Introduction

Welcome to the seventh ebulletin of 2010, in which we are delighted to announce details of our upcoming conference - Shifting Focus: From Criminal Justice to Social Justice which takes placeon 23rd Sept, 2010 in Dublin. We also offer a round-up of recent IPRT events and media.

Since the last ebulletin, we have said goodbye to interns Lynsey Black and Kate O’Hara, who worked tirelessly with IPRT (and even jogged 10km in the rain for IPRT!) over the first half of 2010, and summer interns Paul McKeon and Leah Barry. The energy and commitment that all our interns bring to the work of IPRT is greatly appreciated and invaluable. We also said hello to intern Louise Brangan, who is working with us for August.

Finally, at the end of July, after a year and a half of long-distance commuting, IPRT’s Research & Policy Officer Agnieszka Martynowicz decided to return to the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission. We wish Ags the very best of luck – she is greatly missed by everyone who works in the areas of penal reform and human rights.

The IPRT Team

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 2. IPRT Conference 2010: Shifting Focus - From Criminal Justice to Social Justice

 Date: Thurs 23rd Sept 2010

Time: 10am-5pm

Venue: Radisson-Blu, Golden Lane, Dublin 8

 At a time of a deepening economic and social crisis, this Conference will seek to propose a simple yet proven idea - that a shift in resources from criminal justice to social justice makes social and economic sense. Informed by a common commitment to human rights and social justice, IPRT has come together with Barnardos and the Irish Association of Young People in Care to analyse how this idea can be put in practice.

 To this end, on Thursday 23rd September 2010 we will host a 1-day conference to consider how Ireland might begin to refocus our approach to crime and social policy in line with these principles. The conference will hear from leading Irish and international speakers, who will address the social and economic dimensions of crime, and explore the theory and practice of how interventions can be designed to achieve effective results.

 Speakers confirmed include Lesley McAra of Edinburgh University, Professor Pat Dolan of NUI Galway, Nick Frost of Leeds Metropolitan University, and Dr. Paul O’Mahony of Trinity College, Dublin. Organisations currently designing and delivering effective interventions in the community will also present at the Conference, and a panel of leading politicians will explore how academic knowledge about what works in building stronger communities can be translated into meaningful political action.

 For updates on the Conference, please visit the IPRT website or contact Mary Gaffney at info@iprt.ie

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 3. IPRT Open Forum 2010

 The IPRT’s Open Forum entitled ‘Exploding Prisoner Numbers – Causes, Effects and Solutions’ took place on the 28th June 2010 in the Morrison Hotel.

 Dr Mary Rogan (Chair, IPRT) and Tom O’Malley (NUI Galway) presented papers on the Current Trends in the Irish Prison Population, and an Overview of Sentencing Patterns, respectively, while Vivian Geiran, Director of Operations, The Probation Service, focused on the Use of Supervised Community Sanctions, while the issue of Crime Rates and Crime Detection was explored by Assistant Commissioner of An Garda Síochána, Louis Harkin. The panel was chaired by Judge Michael Reilly, Inspector of Prisons.

 The event provided a much needed forum to discuss the most pressing issues of the Irish prison system, and we were delighted with the high turn-out on the evening (especially as it was a Monday!) The audience included former members of the Mountjoy Prison Visiting Committee, prison staff, academics, lawyers and government officials.

 For presentations and photo’s from the event, please click here.

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 4. Prison Law Seminar: Litigating Prison Conditions

IPRT, in conjunction with the Irish Criminal Bar Association and the Dublin Solicitors Bar Association, held the 6th Prison Law Seminar on 13th July, on the topic ‘Litigating Prison Conditions’. Two of the presentations are now available on-line here.

 On the evening we discussed two highly significant cases. First, the case of Mulligan v Governor of Portlaoise Prison & Anor, which challenged the practice of slopping out, stating that it was a degrading and inhumane practice as well as negatively impacting the health and wellbeing of the plaintiff. The other case discussed was MJER v Rettinger concerned the proposed transfer of Mr Rettinger from Ireland back to Poland for the remainder of his prison sentence. His legal team argued that due to the systemic over-crowding in Polish prisons the transfer would breach Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR).

 Since the seminar, both cases have been concluded. In the latter case the High Court was ordered to investigate the “real risk” Mr Rettinger would face in a Polish jail, due to over-crowding, under the ECHR. What is most important is that we are now seeing the standards as developed by the European Courts of Human Rights being applied to judgments by courts in Ireland. While in the Mulligan case, Judge MacMenamin found against the plaintiff as he believed Mulligan was in an unusually fortunate position having not been subject to over-crowding in addition to having to slop out while in prison.

 IPRT believes that these judgments potentially provide a foundation for future cases which could successfully challenge the conditions in Irish prisons.

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 5. IPRT in the News – some highlights

  • On 14th June 2010, IPRT’s Liam Herrick spoke to the Evening Echo who ran a special feature on women in detention, including Liam’s comment in two articles.
  • The reintegration and accommodation of sex offenders in the community, along with the role of the media in public interest v. privacy debate, was in high focus again and again in recent weeks. Throughout, IPRT emphasised the role of the tasked authorities and spoke against the demonization of all offenders across national and regional radio stations, including 4FM, Today FM, and East Coast FM.
  • On 15th and 16th July 2010, the Irish Examiner ran a 2-day special investigation on youth justice. IPRT’s Dr Ursula Kilkelly commented in many of the articles, which focused on issues surrounding the detention of children, bail supports, supports for vulnerable young people, and more.
  • Following the slopping out judgment, IPRT spoke on 4 FM’s ‘The Lunchtime Show’ and Midlands Radio (both 15th July 2010.) The Sunday Times also ran an item on 18th July 2010, including an emphasis by IPRT on the potential success of future cases. While the High Court found against Mr Mulligan in his case concerning the practice of slopping out, in the Irish Times 26th of July 2010 Liam highlighted how this judgment may still lead to positive changes.
  • On July 27th 2010, following the announcement from Dermot Ahern that Thornton Hall will indeed be built, albeit on a phased basis, Liam spoke about IPRT’s reservations about going ahead with this prison on both Newstalk and RTÉ News. The Irish Times 28th July 2010 also quoted Liam in relation to the news of revised plans Thornton Hall; Liam stressed that this approach of doubling up-cells will do little to improve prison conditions and will merely increase prison capacity. Liam featured again the same day in the Irish Examiner, where he again emphasised that single-cell occupancy must be central to any new prison design.
  • The Sunday Tribune highlighted the shocking figure that our prisoner numbers now exceed 5,000 on 1st Aug, quoting Liam on this worrying and dangerous pattern. The same day, Justine McCarthy in her column in the Sunday Times (not available online) included IPRT’s position in an article which questioned the seeming ‘macho’ penal policies of Government.
  • On August 3rd, the Irish Independent featured the news that the cost of detaining an offender in Ireland per annum has reduced by €15,000. However, IPRT highlighted that this news should be treated with caution, keeping in mind that 2009 was a record year for prison over-crowding.
  • On August 6th, the Irish Prison Service published its Annual Report 2009. At the time of writing, we are still responding to the media!

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

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6. Now Recruiting: Research and Policy Officer

The Irish Penal Reform Trust is currently recruiting for the role of Research & Policy Officer. The successful candidate will be responsible for developing the policy base for IPRT’s campaign work, including carrying out research and engaging with key stakeholders in the Irish penal system. The deadline for applications is 5pm, 27th August 2010.

For further details and an application form please see our website: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1754 

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7. ISIS Sentencing Database

A new sentencing database launched on 3rd August 2010 provides a much needed insight into the sentencing processes of the courts. The new website, Irishsentencing.ie, contains statistics on sentences imposed, information on judgments as well as academic articles pertaining to sentencing. The website is the result of a four year project which was headed up by the ISIS Steering Committee. While this website will be a valuable asset to judges, it is certain to also be a significant resource to those wishing to explore the role of sentencing in the criminal justice system.

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8. Upcoming Events

  • From 1st to 5th of September, the 38th annual conference for the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, entitled The Politics of Criminology takes place in the University of Aegean, Greece
  • From 8th to 11th September, the 10th European Society of Criminology Conference takes place in Liege, Belgium.
  • On 22nd of September, the Controversial Issues in Prison Symposium takes place at the University of Lancashire, Britain
  • On 23rd Sept 2010 – “save the date” for the IPRT Conference focusing on Prevention & Early Intervention in Dublin, in partnership with Barnardos and IAYPIC.
  • On 15th of October the ACJRD will be holding its thirteenth annual conference focusing on Women in the Criminal Justice System. This one day conference will take place in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin 2