IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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IPRT Briefing: Parole and Temporary Release of prisoners serving long sentences

5th October 2016

IPRT believes that the early prison release system in Ireland should be coherent, transparent and fair. To this end, the establishment of a statutory parole system, which is fully independent of political control, will help to achieve clarity in the law and support a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of sentenced persons to a fair and balanced system of release.

Download IPRT's short briefing on parole reform here

Recomendations:

  1. The Parole Board should be granted full independence and placed on a statutory footing, and parole decisions removed from political control.
  2. The Parole Board must be given the power to making binding decisions on prisoner releases.
  3. The Parole Board should have an independent chairperson, such as a member of the judiciary.
  4. The Parole Board must be structured to ensure that it has the required expertise, including psychiatrists and psychologists, to make responsible release decisions.
  5. Parole Board appointments must be solely on merit, to ensure greater public confidence.
  6. The criteria for decision-making on prisoner release should be enshrined in legislation.
  7. Decision-making should concentrate exclusively on the risk of a prisoner committing a serious offence if released and not engage in “resentencing” by considering the seriousness of the offence and aggravating circumstances.
  8. Clear protocols should be established around the presentation of views on a prisoner’s suitability for release to the Parole Board, including those of An Garda Síochána.
  9. The Parole Board must be adequately resourced in terms of funding and staffing, including the provision of appropriate and necessary initial and refresher training, such as interview techniques.
  10. Prisoners should be automatically scheduled by law for a parole review within six months of their eligibility date, and should be provided with adequate notice of hearings.
  11. Prisoners should be entitled to legal representation in proceedings before the Parole Board, particularly those involving oral hearings.
  12. Parole Board decisions must be provided in writing to the prisoner and include “proper, adequate and intelligible” reasons for any decision made.
  13. The remit of the Parole Board should be extended to include earned early release applications of those sentenced to 5-8 years.
  14. Restrictions on certain categories of long-term prisoners from consideration for parole should be removed.
  15. Conditions attached to release should be reasonable and proportionate. A violation of conditions should not mean a prisoner is returned to prison unless a new criminal offence has been committed.
  16. If a prisoner is not granted release at a parole review, follow-up reviews should be scheduled every year for sentences under ten years and every two years for sentences over ten years.

More Information on IPRT Proposals:

More detail on IPRT proposals for comprehensive reform of early release mechanisms is available in IPRT Position Paper 9: Reform of Remission, Temporary Release and Parole.

See also the IPRT Submission on Heads of Criminal Justice (Victims of Crime) Bill 2015, in which IPRT broadly welcomes the implementation of the EU Victims' Rights Directive as a positive step forward for reform of Irish law.