IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #70

2nd August 2012

In this edition:

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT Annual Lecture: 20th September 2012
  3. IPRT Annual General Meeting 2012
  4. Talking about Punishment: Prisons Information Project
  5. IPRT Resources Online
  6. IPRT in the News
  7. Upcoming Events 

1. Introduction

Dear members and friends,

While the summer is a quiet time politically and legally, it gives us a chance to review progress over the past year. IPRT held its 18th AGM on July 12th and at the meeting we presented our members with a full view of the achievements of IPRT over the year.  We also highlighted the most acute problems which prisoners continue to experience within the system, as identified to us by prisoners during a number of events in Wheatfield, Mountjoy, Cork and Limerick prisons in May and June of this year.  Overall the picture presented at the AGM was one of important progress at the policy level which in some areas has still not translated to real improvements in the lives of prisoners.  Prisoner numbers had levelled off somewhat in the past year, but in recent months there have been some worrying signs of increase again.  The issues of prisoner numbers and overcrowding remain central to any consideration of penal reform and sentencing remains the key to determining the prison population size.  For this reason, we have invited Judge Colman Treacy, member of the Sentencing Council of England and Wales to present IPRT's Annual Lecture for 2012 at Kilmainham Gaol at 6pm on Thursday 20th September.

Liam Herrick,

Executive Director

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. IPRT Annual Lecture 2012: the Honourable Mr. Justice Colman Treacy

In recent years, IPRT has invited a leading national or international figure in penal reform to address our members and a wider audience of key stakeholders in the Irish penal system.  Those who have presented our annual lecture have included Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Mr Alan Shatter TD; Dame Anne Owers, HM Inspector of Prisons; and Professor Nils Christie, world renowned criminologist.

This year it is our great honour to welcome The Honourable Mr. Justice Colman Treacy of the English High Court to present our Annual Lecture, addressing the work of the Sentencing Council of England and Wales, and also looking at the broad area of sentencing law. The event will be chaired by The Hon. Mr. Justice Paul McDermott, Judge of the Irish High Court. A reception, sponsored by the bar Council of Ireland, will follow the event.

Date: Thursday, 20th September, 2012 from 6-8pm

Location: Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 8

More information about the event, including biographies, is available here: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/2372


3. IPRT Annual General Meeting, July 2012

Many thanks to the IPRT members who attended the 2012 AGM, which took place on Thursday, 12th July 2012 in the Camden Court Hotel, Dublin 2. It was great to see so many new and familiar faces! During the meeting, Mary (Rogan, Chairperson) and Liam (Herrick, Executive Director) presented an update on  IPRT activities over the past 12 months along with recent penal reform developments; a new Board of Directors, who will oversee the work of the organisation for 2012-2013, was elected; and concerns communicated directly to IPRT by prisoners during our recent ‘Know Your Rights’ sessions in four prisons were presented and discussed. Following the meeting, IPRT Patron Senator Ivana Bacik hosted an informal Q&A session, where IPRT members had the opportunity to engage directly with her on various issues.

Read more:

Would you like to become a member of IPRT? 
Annual membership is just €10 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 an IPRT member now?

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4. Talking About Punishment: a Project to Increase Understanding of the Rights of Prisoners

IPRT has consistently identified a lack of understanding of prisoners’ rights as one of the core obstacles to the vindication of those rights in practice in Ireland, along with the lack of a robust independent complaints system for prisoners.

To address some of these issues, in 2010, in partnership with Dublin Institute of Technology, we initiated a Knowledge Exchange Project on Prisoners’ Rights, with funding from the IRCHSS. The project included the publication materials targeted at prisoners and their families, service providers, lawyers and policy-makers to explain the relevant human rights standard applicable in Irish prisons and to empower prisoners and their representatives to enforce those rights.

The centrepiece of the project was the production of a booklet Your Rights as a Prisoner, produced in association with the ICCL, as part of their wider Know Your Rights series of public information booklets. The booklet is written in accessible language (certified by the National Adult Literacy Agency) and the legal content has been approved by the Irish Prison Service.  We have also produced an audio version on CD, and we have translated the booklet into ArabicPolish and Lithuanian.

Other key aspects of the project included: an information booklet for the families of persons who died in prison custodyresource material for lawyers on prison litigation; and information for policy-makers on obstacles to prison litigation.

To further the reach of the project, we held a series of launch events with community organisations around the country, seminars for lawyers and politicians, and also held launch events in four prisons, organised in cooperation with the prison education staff. At these prison events, prisoners had the opportunity to raise human rights issues directly with IPRT; in turn, IPRT was able to raise these concerns directly with the prison authorities.

Find out more about Know Your Rights – Your rights as a Prisoner here.


5. IPRT Resources Online

Over the past few months, IPRT has greatly expanded the resources available on our website for (i) legal practitioners and (ii) academics and policy-makers working in the field of prisoners' rights or penal reform.  These new materials are now available in the two relevant sections of our website.  We have also added considerably to the section of our site which provides practical information to prisoners and their families.

Prison Law | www.iprt.ie/prison-law

Research Centre | www.iprt.ie/library

  • IPRT Briefings
  • IPRT Position Papers
  • IPRT Submissions
  • IPRT Publications
  • Presentations
  • Prison Reports
  • Dáil Questions

Prisons Information

  • Prisoners’ Rights
  • Prison Reports
  • Information for Families

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6. IPRT in the News

  • On 11th June, Minister Shatter announced a major redevelopment at Limerick Prison, which would see A and B wings demolished and replaced with 100 new cells. IPRT warned against the redevelopment of any unfit accommodation being used to expand the overall capacity of the prison system in thejournal.ie and on Limerick’s Live 95 FM News             
  • On 12th June, IPRT Board Member and CYC Youth Services Manager Eddie D’Arcy contributed to a strong and wide-ranging discussion on Newstalk’s ‘Breakfast’ around youth justice, with particular focus on diversion and intervention programmes.
  • On 19th June, IPRT commented on the concerns raised around draft Spent Convictions legislation as it applies to sexual offences in theIrish Examiner‘Narrow exceptions’ to erasure of sex convictions’
  • The June 2012 issue of Emergency Services Ireland, included two articles focusing on the recent IPRT event around accountability in Irish prisons with Northern Ireland Prisoner Ombudsman Pauline McCabe.
  • On 19th July, IPRT’s Liam Herrick comment on the impact of prison overcrowding on people with mental health and other difficulties, was included in an Irish Medical Times article, ‘Prisons: the ED trolleys for mentally ill’
  • In July, IPRT commented on the high numbers that continue to be imprisoned for non-payment of court-ordered fines, despite the signing into law over two years ago of the Fines Act 2010, across thejournal.ie, the Irish Examiner, Newstalk ‘Lunchtime’, Spin South West and Highland Radio.
  • On July 26th, IPRT's Liam Herrick contributed to RTE Radio One's Drivetime feature on the Training Unit and open prisons in general in Ireland. Following the committal of Sean Quinn Jnr to Mountjoy prison for civil contempt, the programme explored the use of open prisons, their role in rehabilitation, the comparative under-use of open regimes in Ireland, and the use of prison as a form of punishment in 'white collar'crime.Available here (at 44:41mins)
  • In an article for the Irish Examiner, 'Negative, miserly, punitive' (31st July 2012), IPRT Board Member, Dr. Kevin Warner, analysed the cuts to prisoner 'gratuity' that have been proposed by the Irish Prison Service. According to Dr. Warner, the reductions will violate the European Prison Rules, by paying a higher allowance to prisoners who work than to those engaged with education or training, as well as further worsening the financial burden on prisoners' families.

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7. Upcoming Events

  • From 5-7 Sept, 2012, the Re-imagining Imprisonment in Europe - Common Challenges, Diverse Policies and Practice conference, hosted by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice Ireland and the European Scribani Network, will be held in TrinityCollege, Dublin. For full details see: http://jcfj.ie/scribani-conference.html
  • On 20 Sept, 2012 the IPRT Annual Lecture will be delivered by the Honourable Mr Justice Colman Treacy of the UK Sentencing Council. The event takes place in Kilmainham Gaol, Dublin 8. More details here.
  • On 20 Nov, 2012 on the anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Ombudsman for Children, Emily Logan, will launch a new IPRT report focusing on the rights and needs of children with imprisoned parents. Full details to be announced in Oct 2012.