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Parole decision-making should be removed from political control – IPRT

10th September 2014

MEDIA ADVISORY 

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading penal reform campaign organisation, has today called on the Minister for Justice and Equality, Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD, to establish an independent Parole Board on a statutory basis, and remove decision-making around the release of life-sentenced prisoners from political control. IPRT was commenting on publication of the Annual Report of the Parole Board today, Wednesday 10th Sept 2014.

Welcoming Minister Fitzgerald’s commitments to strengthening the position and role of the Parole Board, IPRT Executive Director, Deirdre Malone said:

It is essential that the Parole Board be established on a fully independent, statutory basis, and for decision-making around the release of prisoners to be removed from political control. The Government has too much discretion under our current systems of remission, temporary release and parole. These systems should be replaced by more open and transparent systems of release, along with a more structured and fair system for release of prisoners safely back into the community.”

“We welcome the Minister’s announcement that the report of the Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy is to be published next week, and look forward to plans for implementation of key reforms.”

On publication of the parole Board annual Report for 2013, IPRT is restating its calls on the Minister for Justice and Equality to:

  • Establish a fully independent Parole Board on a statutory basis;·         
  • removing the role of the Minister in decision-making on release of long-term prisoners;·         
  • extending the remit of the Parole Board to include early release applications of those sentenced 5-8 years;·         
  • setting time limits for when parole hearings must take place;·        
  •  and giving a right to legal representation before the Parole Board.

For all media enquiries, or for further comment from Deirdre Malone, please contact: Fíona on 087 181 2990

NOTES FOR EDITORS:

1. Parole Board Annual Report 2013

The Annual Report of the Parole Board 2013 was published on 10 Sept 2014 by Minister for Justice and Equality, Mrs Frances Fitzgerald TD. The report is available here:http://justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PB14000230

2. IPRT proposals for reform of Remission, Temporary Release and Parole

IPRT continues to call for the following reforms of systems of remission, temporary release and parole:

i) Remission: should be increased to 50% for sentences under 5 years; and 33% for sentences over 5 years but with an enhanced 50% for those who demonstrate engagement with services as part of incentivised regimes. These increases would bring Ireland into line with rates of remission in jurisdictions such as Scotland, England & Wales, New Zealand and France.

ii) Short-Term Temporary Release: a more transparent system of temporary release setting out clear criteria should be used for compassionate release, weekend release (maintaining family relationships) and day-to-day release for work – all of which support better reintegration of prisoners following release. It should not be necessary to use temporary release in an ad hoc manner to manage prison overcrowding.

iii) Earned Early Release: the principle of the Community Return Scheme should be expanded to create incentives within the prison system for prisoners to engage constructively with services. Systems for deciding on early release should be open and transparent, and prisoners should have a right to challenge refusals for release.

iv) Parole: IPRT is calling for an independent statutory Parole Board to be established and to take over decision-making on the release of life-sentenced and long-sentenced prisoners.  Among the many recommendations under this heading are: removing the role of the Minister in decision-making on release of long-term prisoners; extending the remit of the Parole Board to include early release applications of those sentenced 5-8 years; setting time limits for when parole hearings must take place; and giving a right to legal representation before the Parole Board.

v) Pardon: The Minister for Justice should consider making use of the right of pardon and the power to commute or remit punishment to bring the prison population within the safe custody limits recommended by the Inspector of Prisons. One suggestion is to remit (partly or in full) and/or introduce an amnesty for some or all fines defaulters to ease pressure on strained prison resources.

See the IPRT Position Paper on Reform of Remission, Temporary Release and Parole (published October 2012) available to download here.

3. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.

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