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Ebulletin #81

16th October 2015

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT Celebrating 21 years
  3. Accountability Conference
  4. What we're working on
  5. Up-coming events
  6. Join IPRT and support our work!
  7. Contact

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Dear Members and Friends,

It has been an exciting couple of months for IPRT! On 18th September, IPRT was honoured to have a reception hosted by President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins at Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the organisation's 21st anniversary. It was a wonderful evening and we are most grateful to President and Mrs Higgins for their support. 

We are now busy preparing for a conference on Securing Accountability: monitoring, inspections, and complaints mechanisms in Irish Prisons which will take place on Friday 27th November. With an impressive line up of Irish and international speakers attending, we are looking forward to what will certainly be a most insightful and important event.

We also want to inform our members (and those of you who would like to become a member!) that the 2015 IPRT AGM will take place on Thursday 26th November in the Spencer Hotel, Dublin 1. This is a great opportunity for the staff and board of IPRT to meet with members and supporters and we would be delighted if you could join us. 

Details of all our activities including penal reform priorities for the next programme for government; IPRT's submission to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on issues including de-criminalisation, EU victim's rights directive and the Bail Bill 2015; as well as highlights from IPRT's most recent media appearances are all included below.

I hope you find this an interesting update, and remember we are always happy to hear your thoughts so don't hesitate to get in touch.

Thanks for reading!

Marie Therese

Have questions or feedback on anything in the ebulletin? Let me know! 

Want to support IPRT? Find out how here.

IPRT celebrating 21 years!

06c05ed6-5c89-43a7-9628-10d668f26e19.jpgOn 18th September President of Ireland Michael D Higgins and Sabina Higgins paid tribute to the work of the Irish Penal Reform Trust, at a reception in Áras an Uachtaráin to mark the organisation's 21st birthday year. It was a wonderful evening shared with IPRT's founding members, friends, advocates, board members and staff.  

In honour of President Higgins' long-standing commitment to human rights and social justice, Prof Michael O'Flaherty, Chairperson of IPRT Board of Directors, presented the President with a work of ceramic art created by a prisoner in Cork Prison. 

Conference: Securing Accountability

Monitoring, Inspection, and Complaints in Irish prisons

IPRT is delighted to announce a major conference on prison accountability, which will take place on Friday 27th November 2015 in the Spencer Hotel, Spencer Dock, Dublin 1. Speakers will include Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick.

Monitoring and inspection of places of detention, as well as independent external mechanisms for the review of prisoners’ complaints and robust systems of investigation of deaths in prison custody, are central to the protection of human rights of prisoners and form part of Ireland’s obligations under international human rights law.

This timely examination of the current situation in Ireland, and the potential options for improving and strengthening accountability structures behind bars, will contribute to ensuring that Ireland both meets and exceeds our obligations to protect human rights behind prison walls.

Venue: Spencer Hotel, Spencer Dock, Dublin 1

Date: Friday 27th November, 2015

Time: 10.00 - 17.00 (tbc)

A registration page for this event will be set up shortly, in the interim if you would like to register your interest in attending this event please email Marie Therese on mtpower@iprt.ie

We hope to see you there!

What we are working on

Securing commitment to penal reform

In the lead up to the last general election, IPRT put together ten priorities for creating better and safer communities, proposals which we believed should be included in a new programme for government. Recently we decided to take a look back and see what remains to be achieved.


IPRT made a submission to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in relation to Ireland's approach to the possession of limited quantities of certain drugs. IPRT believes that a focus on addressing the root causes of personal drug misuse would be more effective and more efficient than expending resources on criminalisation and imprisonment, and strongly recommends the diversion of drug users away from the criminal justice system and towards drug treatment and services. To read IPRT’s full submission click here.

IPRT also made a submission to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in relation to General Scheme of the Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015. IPRT broadly welcomes the implementation of the EU Victims' Rights Directive as a positive step forward for reform of Irish law. Notably, IPRT holds the view that the protection of victims’ rights is neither incompatible nor detrimental to the rights of sentenced persons. While strongly endorsing the Directive, IPRT recommends that the Government take a cautious approach to any proposals to extend provisions beyond those laid out in the Directive. To read IPRT’s full submission click here.

Finally, IPRT made a submission to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality in response to a call for written submissions in relation to the General Scheme of the Bail Bill 2015.  IPRT believes that the most effective way to improve compliance with bail conditions, particularly where the accused person has a chaotic life and complex personal challenges, lies in the provision of bail supports and services that allow the accused to remain within their community and address offending-related behaviour in a familiar environment. To read IPRT’s full submission click here.

Inspector of Prisons - reports

The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly has raised a number of concerns in his recently published reports on investigations into deaths occurring in prison custody, including on temporary release. The reports, which examine the circumstances surrounding the deaths of individual prisoners, are at times seriously critical; in some cases, the Inspector has commented that the “Irish Prison Service failed in its duty of care to the deceased”.

The reports indicate that the Inspector of Prisons had, with regard to certain prisons, concerns in relation to: the reliability of record keeping; the psychology services made available to prisoners; the response level of staff to prisoner call bells and the turning off of landing lights during periods of lock-down (which had the effect of preventing the identification of individual prisoners). For a more detailed account of the issues raised by Inspector of Prisons in his recent Deaths in Prison reports click here. For access to the reports by the Inspector of Prisons click here (Office of the Inspector of Prisons website)  or here (Department of Justice and Equality website).

Further details on these and all of our activities are on our website www.iprt.ie

IPRT in the News

  • On 6th July, IPRT Chairperson, Professor Michael O'Flaherty wrote an article in the Irish Times entitled “Bill aims to wipe the slate clean on certain convictions”. The article addresses the lack of spent convictions legislation in Ireland, and identifies potential conflicts with Ireland's human rights obligations in the most recent proposals.
  • The Irish Times published an article on 24th July, entitled “Rhetoric on bail proposals shows an election is around the corner”. The article refers to IPRT's long-standing position that judges should give clear, comprehensive reasons for every decision to imprison. 
  • Following a serious incident which took place at Cloverhill Prison on 29th July, IPRT was invited by media to comment. IPRT called for an independent, effective and prompt investigation by the Inspector of Prisons to take place alongside the internal investigation by the Irish Prison Service and the criminal investigation by An Garda Síochána. On 30th July, IPRT Executive Director, Deirdre Malone spoke about this issue on RTE’s Six One News (to see newsclip click here).
  • On 12th August, Deirdre Malone spoke to Newstalk FM's The Pat Kenny Show about children in detention in Ireland, and why prison is a completely inappropriate place for under-18s (to listen to the radio interview click here).
  • IPRT's Deputy Executive Director, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, was interviewed on RTE’s Drivetime Show on 25th September following the launch of the IASIO biennial report. Fíona discussed the benefits of community based sanctions and post-release supports.  

Further details on these and all of our activities are on our website www.iprt.ie 

Upcoming events

  • 12th November 2015: CityWide 20th Anniversary Conference: As part of its 20th Anniversary celebrations, CityWide Drugs Crisis Campaign is holding a conference on  Drugs Policy Reform. Full details available here
  • 26th November 2015: IPRT AGM: The IPRT AGM will be held on Thursday 26th November 2015, in the Spencer Hotel, Dublin 1. Full details will be shared with members closer to the date. If you would like to attend please ensure that your membership is up to date. Please contact Marie Therese with any queries.
  • 27th November 2015: IPRT 'Securing Accountability' Conference: IPRT will hold a full-day conference on accountability within the Irish prison system in the Spencer Hotel, Dublin 1. Speakers will include Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Prisons, Nick Hardwick. Full details will be available on www.iprt.ie shortly.
  • 16th March 2016: Howard League Conference: The Howard League is holding a conference in Oxford from the 16-18 March 2016 entitled Justice and Penal Policy: Re-shaping the penal policy landscape. Full details are available here


We need YOU

IPRT needs your help to continue our work! At IPRT we are truly grateful for the support and solidarity of all our friends and members. Without your support our work simply would not be possible. If you support our work and share our belief in a more fair, effective and just penal policy in Ireland please show your support by Becoming a member, Renewing your membership 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.

"Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort"

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