IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #61

1st December 2010

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT Conference 2010
  3. Oireachtas Seminar 2 Dec
  4. IPRT Lawyers Seminars and Events
  5. IPRT in the News
  6. Educational Trust
  7. Upcoming Events Introduction


1. Introduction 

It's been a very active few months both for IPRT and the area of prisons and penal reform in general. In early September, IPRT finalised a new 5-year Strategy document, which will take us through from 2011 to 2015. 

Then on 23rd Sept , IPRT co-hosted the Shifting Focus: From Criminal Justice to Social Justice conference, which was a huge success: we had a full house, and very positive feedback to the many inspiring presentations on the day. We will be working over the next few months to ensure that the clear message that came out of this project - put simply, that we should build better communities not bigger prisons - continues to receive wider attention. 

On 22nd Oct, the Minister for Justice published a number of key reports documenting the serious issues in the Irish prison system and offering a roadmap towards improvement. Of particular significance is The Irish Prison Population, Visiting Committee reports for all 14 prisons were also published the same day. All of the reports can be accessed through the IPRT website

The IPRT welcomed the announcement made by Minister Ahern that he will bring forward legislation to require judges to consider community sanctions instead of custodial sentences of 6 months or less.

Finally, we are delighted to welcome Jane Mulcahy to the IPRT team. Jane joins the organisation as Research & Policy Officer. Jane can be contacted on research@iprt.ie 

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

Many thanks to everyone who attended the Shifting Focus - From Criminal Justice to Social Justice conference on 23rd Sept, 2010, which was co-hosted by IPRT, Barnardos and IAYPIC. The three organisations came together to make the case for shifting resources from criminal justice to social justice, thereby creating better and safer communities. To find out more: 


3. Oireachtas Seminar on 'Smart Investment and the Crime Dimension to Budget 2011'

Senator Ivana Bacik will host the fifth seminar for the All Party Oireachtas Penal Reform Group of TDs and Senators on 2nd December, 2010. Facilitated by IPRT, the meeting will take place at 12pm in Leinster House. Speakers are Prof. Tony Fahey of UCD School of Applied Social Science and Prof. Pat Dolan Director of the Child & Family Research Centre and UNESCO Chairholder in Children, Youth and Civic Engagement at NUI Galway.

The Irish criminal justice system is spending increasing and wasteful amounts of scarce resources with poor results, when modest investments in under-resourced communities would have greater positive effects in reducing offending, as well as producing wider social benefits. International cost-benefit analyses support this, and put simply: investing in children is of far greater social and economic benefit to the State than investing in prison-building.  

This seminar will seek toexplore how smart investment now can make greater savings in the longer-term in social and economic cost. 


4. IPRT Lawyers Seminars and EventsNot content with announcing one event, IPRT is delighted to announce two Prison Law seminars over the coming months:

i) Seminar on Prison Law Developments and Interview with John Lonergan

  • IPRT will present an analysis of key developments and a panel of practitioners will reflect on trends and opportunities emerging in this growing area of legal practice.  
  • The seminar will be followed by an interview with John Lonergan by Dearbhail McDonald, Legal Editor with the Irish Independent.  

ii) Seminar on Strategic Juvenile Justice Litigation - the US Experience.

  • Jointly hosted with the Public Interest Law Alliance, on the experience of strategic juvenile justice litigation in the United States, this seminar will hear from Marsha Levick co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center in Philadelphia, a nationally recognized leader in juvenile law in the US who has successfully litigated challenges to the state Department of Education's failure to provide pre-trial school-aged youth in county prisons with basic and special education. Marsha will be in Ireland to support the establishment of a Child Law Clinic with Ursula Kilkelly at the Faculty of Law, University College Cork. The Child Law Clinic is an initiative supported by NAIRTL, the National Academy for the Integration of Research and Teaching and Learning.

5. IPRT in the News - some highlights

  • On 23 Sept, news about the Shifting Focus conference - co-hosted by IPRT, Barnardos and IAYPIC - went out across local radio stations and also Newstalk FM News; the Irish Examiner also reported on the event and themes. Liam spoke to Q102's Scott William show, DLR FM (Drogheda) and WLR FM (Waterford) on 23 and 24 Sept. In The Irish Times, Carol Coulter gave good coverage to the event, across two articles: 'Shift' needed in approach to crime and Wall around site of planned prison 'poor use of money'.         
  • Liam talked to Joe Duffy on RTÉ's 'Liveline' about imprisonment for fines (27 Sept) and also addressed imprisonment for fines on Newstalk's 'Lunchtime' show on 27 Sept.
  • On 5 Oct, Liam and Kevin Myers locked antlers on Newstalk's 'Breakfast Show', a longer item focussing on broader issues surrounding prisons and punishment. 
  • Rioting in Mountjoy on 14 Oct gathered a lot of media attention. Liam talked to RTÉ's 'Morning Ireland'  about the surrounding issues, linking overcrowding not with the specific incident but with the general escalation of violence in Irish prisons. This led to coverage across local radio news, and also The Irish Times, the Irish Independent and a number of other dailies (Belfast Telegraph, Evening Echo, Irish Examiner, etc.).
  • On 18 Oct, speaking at the opening of the new block at Wheatfield Prison, Minister Ahern announced that forthcoming legislation would require judges to consider community service sanctions as an alternative to imprisonment for minor offences. That IPRT welcomed this announcement was reported in the Irish Independent, Evening Echo and in a front page article in the Irish Examiner.
  •  On 22 Oct, the Minister for Justice published 4 key documents from the Inspector of Prisons along with 14 annual reports of the Prisons Visiting Committees. Liam spoke to RTÉ's Six One News , including a studio interview.
  • On 10 Nov IPRT welcomed the cabinet's support of Minister Ahern's proposed legislation that will require judges to consider community sanctions instead of custodial sentences of 6 months or less across a wide number of print media.

6. Educational Trust - clarification

In the last edition of the ebulletin, we referred to the Educational Trust as being run by NEVA. We would like to clarify that the Educational Trust is an autonomous grant giving trust entirely separate from NEVA, the network body for organizations working with ex-prisoners and their families.

7. Upcoming Events 

  • On 2 Dec, 2010, Senator Ivana Bacik will host the fifth seminar for the All Party Oireachtas Penal Reform Group of TDs at 12pm in Leinster House.
  • On 15 Dec, 2010, the IPRT will host a seminar on Prison Law Developments with an interview with former governor of Mountjoy prison John Lonergan at Distillery Building, Church St, Dublin 7 at 5pm. 
  • On 31 Dec, 2010, is the deadline for submissions to the White Paper on Crime public consultation "Organised and White Collar Crime".
  • On 10 Jan, 2011, the IPRT will co-host a seminar with the Public Interest Law Alliance on Strategic Juvenile Justice Litigation at 5pm in Distillery Building, Church St, Dublin 7. 
  • From 19-21 May, 2011 the 2nd Global Conference - Experiencing Prison will take place in Warsaw, Poland. A call for papers has been issued, deadline for abstracts is 26 November 2010.