IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Ebulletin #83

21st December 2015

  1. Introduction
  2. Season's Greetings from IPRT
  3. IPRT: A Year in Review
  4. IPRT Conference: Securing Accountability
  5. We need your support!
  6. Contact

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Introduction

"Today marks a historic day for penal reform in Ireland"

Not our words but those of Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald TD on 16th December 2015, when the Prisons Bill 2015 completed all stages in the Oireachtas. The passage of the legislation, which provides for the closure of St Patrick’s Institution, forms a critical final step towards closing the prison to children and young people.

It comes 30 years after the Whitaker Report first recommended the complete closure of the prison, and following decades of inaction by successive governments - not to mention 21 years of campaigning by IPRT for an end to the imprisonment of children in adult facilities in Ireland. So it was truly a historic day - and a great finale to 2015, another busy year for IPRT and penal reform in Ireland. Read a short review of our work in 2015 below.

Although the work of IPRT benefits all of society through our advocacy for more effective, less damaging, responses to offending, it does not enjoy popular appeal. As the generous support of two of our funders, Atlantic Philanthropies and Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust, will come to an end after 2016, we need the support of you - our members, friends and supporters - to continue our important work. Find out more here.

In January, we will be announcing our exciting programme for work for 2016. For now, please make a note in your diaries that IPRT will launch a new report the first week in February 2016: Out on the Inside, which explores the particular rights and needs of LGBT people in prison.

In the meantime, we wish all our members and friends a happy and peaceful festive season, with very best wishes for 2016!

Deirdre, Fíona, Marie Therese, Kate O'H, Katie S and Sean


Season's Greetings from IPRT

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IPRT: A Year in Review

Achieving change, implementing reform

IPRT is resolutely focused on outcomes - real, measurable change in Ireland's penal system - rather than lists of activities and outputs, but we are very proud of what our small team of just 4 staff, supported by a dedicated volunteer board and interns, manage to achieve every year. 2015 was no different - here are just some of the highlights:

Seminars & Events:

IPRT staff also delivered many presentations, conference papers and guest lectures at conferences, in prisons, and to university students around Ireland and abroad in 2015.

Submissions:

IPRT made oral and written submissions to national and international processes throughout 2015, including three presentations to the Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Equality and Defence, and a presentation to the Department of Justice discussion day on proposals for a criminal justice inspectorate. The following are just a small number of highlights:

  • Submission to Children's Rights Alliance Parallel Report to Ireland's Third and Fourth Combined Report under the UN CRC (Feb 2015)
  • Submission to Inspector of Prisons' Assessment of current culture within the Irish Prison Service (April 2015)
  • Submission to Oireachtas on Children Amendment Bill 2015 (May 2015)
  • Submission to Justice Committee on Ireland's approach to the possession of limited quantities of certain drugs (Aug 2015)
  • Submission to Justice Committee on Heads of Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015 (August 2015)
  • Submission to Justice Committee on General Scheme of the Bail Bill 2015 (Sept 2015)

Research projects:

During 2015, IPRT worked on a number of discrete research projects:

  • Community Service Orders versus short custodial sentences: examining profiles, experiences, and outcomes, conducted by employment-based PhD candidate Kate O'Hara (co-funded by the Irish Research Council)
  • Rights and needs of LGBT prisoners
  • Rights and needs of older prisoners
  • Turnaround Youth II: Mental health needs and provision for young adults in the criminal justice system
  • EU Project: Practice of Pre-Trial Detention: Monitoring Alternative and Judicial Decision Making (Fair Trials International)
  • EU Project: Prison Litigation Network project (University of Florence)
  • EU Project: Improving Prison Conditions by Strengthening Infectious Disease Monitoring (Harm Reduction International)
  • EU Project (expert): Juvenile Offenders' Alternatives to Detention in Europe (International Juvenile Justice Laboratory)

Media:

In our 'spare' time, IPRT also engages with the general public and media debate on relevant issues:

  • 6 ebulletins
  • 9 TV appearances
  • 35+ radio interviews
  • 45+ print news stories

Fundraising:

Our attention was also taken up by the longer-term sustainability of the organisation. The generous support of Atlantic Philanthropies and the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust will come to an end after 2016, and unless IPRT accesses new sources of support, we will be unable to maintain our current levels of activity and programme of work. Some of the work during 2015 included:

  • Improvements to online donations facility
  • Membership drives
  • Direct email appeals
  • Seeking corporate sponsorship and in-kind support for events
  • Launch of the Friends of IPRT network
  • Research and applications to grant foundations

All of this work was achieved alongside responding to queries from prisoners and their families, answering queries from people with unspent convictions, constant monitoring of media, policy and relevant legislation, together with all the day-to-day work that comes with running an organisation.

Not bad for a small team of just four staff, achieved through hard work and the support of our volunteer board and interns!

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 becoming a Friend of IPRT or simply making a donation.

If you would like to know more about how we spend donations, please contact Deirdre Malone, our Executive Director.

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IPRT Conference: Securing Accountability

Building effective prison monitoring, inspection and complaints systems

On 27 November 2015, IPRT hosted a major conference on accountability in the Irish prison system. There was a strong turnout for this event, including representatives from key criminal justice agencies, former prisoners, and civil society. Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD opened the conference, during which she reaffirmed her commitment both to a reformed criminal justice system and to improved accountability. Presentations from the conference will be available in January 2016. In the meantime:

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Become a Member

Would you like to become a member of IPRT?

Annual membership is just €10 for students, €40 for individuals, €80 for organisations/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?

Learn more