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Ebulletin #74

28th February 2014

  1. Introduction
  2. Projects and Activities
  3. Recent Developments
  4. Re-designing the Pattern: Women in the Criminal Justice System
  5. Call for Papers - UCC Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights Graduate Conference 2014
  6. We need YOU
  7. Contact

Introduction

Dear Members and Friends,           

Liam Herrick at IPRT Annual Lecture 2013. Photo: Derek SpeirsJust a brief update from IPRT, with more exciting announcements to follow shortly.At the beginning of February, Liam Herrick stepped down after more than six years in his role as Executive Director of IPRT, to take up the position of Adviser to President of Ireland, Michael D Higgins. Liam has made an immense contribution to the development of IPRT into the organisation it is today. We congratulate Liam on his appointment, thank him for his commitment to penal reform and prisoners' rights, and wish him every success in the future.

We will shortly announce the appointment of a new Executive Director, who will build on the organisation's successes and lead IPRT in the next period of its development. In the interim period, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Manager, has taken on the role of Acting Executive Director.

Ronan Hickey, who has worked with IPRT during a period of great transition - not least the physical move from Ormond Quay to Green Street - finishes his internship with us today (28 February). Many thanks to Ronan for all his work, including his research into standards for inspection of prisons, international prison rules, community courts, criminal justice responses to offenders aged 18-21; updating the website; representing IPRT at seminars; and much more. Elizabeth Martin and Keith Adams begin their internships with IPRT on Monday 3 March.

Meantime, it is business as usual at the Irish Penal Reform Trust! As always, we welcome your feedback and comments: communications@iprt.ie


Projects & Activities

Travellers in the Irish prison system - A qualitative study IPRT is delighted to announce that this spring it will launch a very significant qualitative research report on the experience of Travellers in the Irish prison system, a project which has received supported by the St Stephens Green Trust. The report is the culmination of extensive research conducted by Liza Costello with members of the Travelling Community with experience of the prison system in Ireland. More details to follow shortly.

‘Turnaround Youth’ Young offenders aged 18-25 are over represented in the penal system (under 9% of the general population, but over 20% of the prison population). While this group is at the highest risk of reoffending, young adults also have the greatest capacity for change. Nevertheless, in Ireland, once a young person turns 18, he or she loses access to age-appropriate interventions, entitlements and supports – both in the criminal justice system, and in services provided in the community.In 2013, IPRT received grant-funding from The Ireland Funds towards a combined research, consultation and communications campaign “Turnaround Youth” which will build the case for a national Transition to Adulthood Strategy, leading to reduced numbers of young people in detention and a reduction in re-offending by young people. IPRT has developed a discussion paper on the key issues, and will host a consultation event with all stakeholders in May 2014. More details to follow. 

“Blowing out the candles on an 18th birthday cake does not magically transform anyone into a fully functioning and mature adult – even without the life disadvantages many young people in criminal justice have experienced.” Dame Anne Owers

European Projects: In 2014, IPRT is engaging with three different European research projects, focusing on: the human rights of children deprived of liberty - improving monitoring mechanisms; prison litigation networks; and the use of pre-trial detention. The first of these kicks off on 1st March. Watch this space!


Recent Developments:

a. St. Patrick's Institution - update

As of end February 2014, all sentenced prisoners aged under 18 and all prisoners aged 18-21 years old have been transferred from St Patrick's Institution to Wheatfield. The most recent figures show that five 17-year-old remand prisoners remain at St. Patrick’s Institution.

IPRT has long campaigned for an end to the imprisonment of children in Ireland, and the closure of St. Patrick's Institution, and we welcome progress in the construction of a new facility for juvenile offenders at Oberstown. However, the interim arrangement of housing 17-year-old boys at Wheatfield, an adult prison, must be for as short a period as possible, and alternative arrangements must be found, with urgency, for the small number of boys who remain in St Patrick's.

b. Hearings on proposal to create a Community Court

Community Courts work by providing those who plead guilty to minor offences with immediate access to services that they need to move away from criminal behaviour, such as drug treatment or education programmes, and the exclusive use of non-custodial sentences with offenders who choose to engage with the Community Court process rather than conventional courts.

IPRT is broadly supportive of such initiatives, which address the causes of offending behaviour and not only punishment. To this end, the IPRT made a submission to the Oireachtas Justice Committee endorsing the proposal for a pilot Community Court in Dublin. The Oireachtas Justice Committee hearings can be accessed here; the response Minister for Justice and Equality to the proposed pilot Community Court in Dublin City Centre is available here (at page 119).

c. General Scheme of Criminal Justice (Community Sanctions) Bill 2014

The Department of Justice and Equality has published a bill to further the use of Community Sanctions in the Irish criminal justice system. Included in the proposal is a provision (within Part 3) specifically directed at young adults, which would require the court to request a probation assessment report in the circumstance where it thinks it appropriate to impose a prison sentence on a person aged between 18 and 21 who has not previously been sentenced to a term of imprisonment of 12 months or more.

While a legislative move to increase the use of alternatives to custody is welcome, and particularly for those aged under 21, we await the detail of the proposed legislation later this year before assessing its potential for decreasing the use of short-term prison sentences.

d. Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013

While the IPRT broadly welcomes the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Bill 2013, we have a number of reservations that we have set out previously (here), in particular: the proposed minimum of €100 for a fine to be eligible for payment by instalment. In addition, the 2010 Fines Act had greater flexibility in payment (up to 24 months of payments in special circumstances, with a 12 months limit in the 2013 Bill).

e. Spent Convictions Bill 2012

Recent indications from Government suggest that the Spent Convictions Bill may be enacted this year. Until then, Ireland remains the only country in the EU without spent convictions legislation- amounting to lifelong punishment, even for very minor offences, committed a long time ago. The IPRT has a FAQs page for general information on this proposed legislation available here.


"Re-designing the Pattern: Women and the Criminal Justice System"

Photo: Derek SpeirsIn the context of stubbornly high rates of imprisonment of women, and persistent overcrowding in Ireland's two female prisons, IPRT held a half-day seminar exploring the benefits of community-based responses to offending by women. The event took place on 4th December 2013 in the Wood Quay Venue.

As part of the event, Minister Kathleen Lynch TD launched the new IPRT paper, Women and the Criminal Justice System - Towards a Non-Custodial Approach.The seminar closed with a fantastic performance by the Saol Project (www.saolproject.ie) in their own words.

Full details about the event, including presentations from the speakers, are available here.


Call for Papers - UCC Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights Graduate Conference 2014

The Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights (CCJHR) at University College Cork has announced a call for papers for its 8th Annual Graduate Conference which will take place on 5 and 6 June, 2014. The conference is specifically aimed at those who are undertaking doctoral research in the areas of criminal law, criminal justice and human rights. The theme for this year’s event is “Justice and Dignity under Challenge.”

A CPD Certificate of Attendance will be available for this conference.

Submission and further enquiries should be directed to ucclawconf@gmail.com


~ We need YOU ~

Be part of something effective

If you value the contribution IPRT has made over recent years, and believe our work should continue into the future, please consider showing your support by becoming a member or making a donation.

You can find out more about what we have achieved and how we have achieved it here.

There are many other ways that you can become involved in the movement for progressive penal reform in Ireland. Find out here.