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Ebulletin #62

17th February 2011

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT and Election 2011
  3. Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) Report on Irish prisons
  4. Young People in St. Patrick’s Institution – Ombudsman for Children
  5. *New* IPRT Briefing Paper on Sanitation and Slopping Out in the Irish Prison System
  6. IPRT’s Engagement with the Universal Periodic Review
  7. Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2011
  8. Book launch: Inside: Ireland’s Women’s Prisons by Christina Quinlan
  9. IPRT in the News
  10. Upcoming Events


1. Introduction

Welcome to the first e-bulletin of 2011, in which we have already seen a busy start to the year.

IPRT is currently focusing all of our attention on the upcoming General Election and we will be working with all the main parties to try to ensure penal reform is an integral part of the commitments they will make in the course of the campaign and, most importantly, in the subsequent drafting of the Programme for Government.

The urgency of the issues we are raising with the parties is reinforced by the shocking report of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published last week.  The report contains a depressing account of the serious problems facing our prison system.  IPRT has been at the forefront of reaction to the report and we sincerely hope that this fifth report from the Committee will finally be the catalyst for action after 18 years of failure to meet the Committee’s recommendations.

On 24th January, IPRT also published a new briefing paper on the current situation regarding sanitation and slopping out in the Irish Prison System.

IPRT also welcomed the Criminal Justice (Community Service) (Amendment) Bill 2011, published 12th January, which would require the courts to consider imposing a community service order for minor offences where it would otherwise be appropriate to sentence the offender to imprisonment for a period of up to six months.

On 10 January IPRT, along with the Public Interest Law Alliance, hosted a seminar addressed by Marsha Levick, co-founder of the Juvenile Law Center, on strategic juvenile justice litigation in the United States

Since our last e-bulletin IPRT has said goodbye to interns Judith McGimpsey and Steven Moffatt, who have been working with us over the last few months. We’d also like to welcome Maggie Coughlan, who joined us on 7th February and who will be working with us until June.

The IPRT Team


2. IPRT and Election 2011

Election 2011 could prove to be a key moment of opportunity to achieve important commitments to a programme of penal reform. IPRT is now calling for all parties to commit to a broad programme of evidence-led proposals, leading towards a more effective and a more humane penal system – put simply, it makes social and economic sense to place penal reform in a new Programme for Government.

To make sure these issues get on the agenda of the main parties and independent candidates, we are calling on all members and allies to raise these issues on the doorsteps, shopping centres, train stations - wherever candidates are canvassing. We suggest some possible questions here

IPRT has also published its priorities for the next government in 10 Steps to Better and Safer Communities. Print copies are available from the office – if you would like to distribute copies to your local candidates, please email Mary at: info@iprt.ie

We will also shortly be publishing a short analysis of the parties’ manifestos from the penal reform angle, so keep an eye out on: www.iprt.ie/election-2011

Make your voice and your vote count for penal reform!


3. Committee on the Prevention of Torture (CPT) Report on Irish prisons.

A report by the CPT was published last week, Thursday 10th February, on places of detention in Ireland, including Garda stations, psychiatric institutions, and Irish prisons. The report was highly critical of prison conditions across Ireland, and yielded some disturbing insights into human rights violations in Ireland’s prisons.

The CPT report received a considerable amount of media coverage, see here: http://www.iprt.ie/iprt-in-the-news

For a link to the CPT report and the Government’s response please click here.


4. Young People in St. Patrick’s Institution - a report by the Ombudsman for Children’s Office

A new report from the Ombudsman for Children was published Wednesday 9th February, which saw children and young people voice their opinions on their experiences in the facility. It highlighted some distressing issues about St. Patrick’s. Mainly, the failure of the staff to ensure that children and adults are segregated from one another and that young people were often hesitant to report mental health issues for fear of being put on protection and locked up for 23 hours a day.

While the report did credit the work being done by chaplains and teachers in the facility, young people expressed their concerns about prison officers disrespecting or humiliating them. The document includes a number of recommendations to, and comments from the Irish Prison Service. It is a good and concise read and hopefully will be an instrument for change in St. Patrick’s.

You can read the full report here


5. *New* IPRT Briefing Paper on Sanitation and Slopping Out in the Irish Prison System

IPRT has consistently drawn attention to the ongoing practice of ‘slopping out’ in Irish prisons, which receives national and international condemnation. Despite Government assurances since 1993 that it will bring an end to this inhuman and degrading practice, it continues - in direct contravention of international human rights law. This new briefing paper, published 24 January 2011, outlines the current provision of in-cell sanitation across the Irish prison estate. It highlights how problems associated with slopping out are further exacerbated by overcrowding, and makes a number of recommendations towards ending this practice.

The full briefing paper is available to download here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1938

Also see a recent parliamentary question on the issue of slopping out.


5. IPRT’s Engagement with the Universal Periodic Review

In October 2011, Ireland will be examined for the first time by other United Nations (UN) countries on our human rights record. This process is called the Universal Periodic Review or UPR, and is a new mechanism. ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ is a new campaign, spearheaded by the Irish Council of Civil Liberties, to promote awareness of - and involvement in - Ireland's UPR process.  ‘Your Rights. Right Now’ aims to inform the general public and civil society organisations about the process, and to encourage people to learn about their human rights and to get involved in the UPR. IPRT is supporting the campaign as a member of the steering committee.  We encourage all our supporters to get involved!

See: www.rightsnow.ie


6. Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2011

The Children’s Rights Alliance Report Card 2011 examines whether the Government has honoured the promises it has made to children living in Ireland.  The Report Card 2011 – the third in a series of annual publications – analyses 30 key commitments in the areas of education, health, material wellbeing and safeguarding childhood. Overall, the results were disappointing, with the Government being awarded an overall ‘D minus’ grade. See the full report on the Children’s Rights Alliance website.


7. IPRT in the News – Some Highlights

  • On 8 Dec, the Irish Examiner reported on news of cuts to youth justice detailed in the 2011 budget. IPRT’s Liam reacted to cuts to the youth justice budget as “short-sighted and likely to prove counter-productive”.
  • On 13 Dec, the Irish Examiner reported that 20% of juvenile inmates in Irish Prisons faced being locked up for 23-hours a day. IPRT’s Liam detailed concerns around the extremely serious impact that this can have on boys and young men.
  • On 20 Dec, Marsha Levick and IPRT’s Ursula Kilkelly wrote an article in the Irish Times on how strategic litigation combined with academic research has helped advance the rights of children in the United States. During Marsha’s trip to Ireland, she talked on RTÉ's 'Today with Pat Kenny' about her inspirational work challenging the treatment of children in the juvenile and adult criminal justice systems across the US. 
  • On 3 Feb, the The Irish Times  reported on the number of people being imprisoned for the non-payment of court ordered fines, including IPRT’s comment, urging the next government to fully commence legislation which would see the end to people going to prison for fines default.
  • On 19 Feb, the Irish Independent reported on the CPT report, stating that Ireland had been ‘shamed’ internationally by the state of prisons in this country. The issues of overcrowding, drug abuse, slopping out and staff/prisoner violence were cited as being major problems. IPRT’s Liam commented on the urgency of prison reform, and how successive governments have failed to address the problem.
  • On 11 February the Cork News focused on the CPT findings on Cork prison. They highlighted how slopping out and overcrowding are a serious problem in the prison. IPRT’s Liam was quoted extensively in the article saying “There needs to be a prison building programme which is realistic and that prioritises replacing the unacceptable conditions in Cork and in Mountjoy”

There were many more news items surrounding the release of the CPT report. For a full list and links, see: www.iprt.ie/iprt-in-the-news


8. Book: Inside: Ireland’s Women’s Prisons by Christina Quinlan

Christina Quinlan’s Inside: Ireland’s Women’s Prison is a comprehensive read on the development of women’s rights in Ireland and the history of prisons and imprisonment in this state. Christina has been a central member of the Women in Prison Reform Alliance over the last few years. See Liam’s Blog on the IPRT website for a review of the book, and more information.


9. Upcoming Events

  • On 16 February 2011 a panel discussion on Prison Reform in India, a Female perspective will take place in the 4th Floor Seminar Room in DCU from 3-5pm.
  • On 18 February 2011, The Irish Centre for European Law will be hosting ‘The Right to a Fair Trial: Perspectives on Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights’ in St Michan’s church, Church Street, Dublin 7 at 5pm.
  • From 11-12 May 2011, the What’s Working For Children Conference will be taking place in the Chartered Accountants House, located just behind Trinity College.
  • From 19-21 May 2011, the 2nd Global Conference - Experiencing Prison will take place in Warsaw, Poland.
  • From 21-23 June 2011, the 7th North/South Irish Criminology Conference will be hosted by the School of Business and Humanities, Institute of Technology, Sligo

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