Irish Penal Reform Trust

3 Key Questions for Candidates

Make your voice and your vote count for penal reform!  

Here are three key questions to ask your TD’s – please report back on any commitments made by candidates, so that we can hold them to account later! Send to


1. If elected, what will you do to ensure that no one ends up in the prison system due to a lack of mental health services or housing in the community?


Issue: No one should be in prison due to a lack of appropriate care or housing in the community. People with acute mental health issues are ending up in the prison system due to a lack of access to mental health services in the community. Our PIPS 2019 report shows that there are approximately 300 people with severe mental illness in Irish prisons, with an average 20-30 people awaiting transfer to receive care and treatment in the Central Mental Hospital at any given time.       

Action: Establish a high level, multi-agency, Mental Health Task Force. This Task Force should be led by the Department of the Taoiseach, comprising representatives from the Department of Health, the Department of Justice and Equality, the Health Service Executive, the Irish Prison Service, the National Forensic Mental Health Service, An Garda Síochána and the Courts Service.

The Task Force should develop short, medium, and long-term solutions to address the high rates of mental health issues in the criminal justice system, with particular focus on:

  • diversion routes away from the criminal justice system;
  • investment in community-based mental health services;
  • access to appropriate therapeutic settings;
  • a review of gaps in current legislation; and
  • resourcing of prison psychology services.

Outcome: People with serious mental health issues are diverted away from the prison system and receive the appropriate treatment, care and supports in a timely manner.   

More info: See Standard 13 on Mental Healthcare in IPRT’s Progress in the Penal System: A Framework for Penal Reform (2019).    


2. If elected, will you support legislation that helps people with old convictions histories move on with their lives?


Issue: Thousands of people in Ireland with old convictions histories experience life-long barriers to accessing work, training, education, insurance and more. This can amount to a lifelong punishment that is disproportionate to the gravity of the offending behaviour. Barriers to employment, in particular, may have the unintended effect of undermining public safety by undermining a person’s ability to meet their economic needs.

Senator Lynn Ruane’s Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018  is at Report Stage as of November 2019. Under the Bill as amended, spent convictions provisions will be extended to people who receive custodial sentences of up to 24 months, and non-custodial sentences of up to four years. One welcome aspect of the Bill is that there is no limit on the amount of eligible convictions that may become spent.

Action: Pass and enact the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018

Outcome: While IPRT believes the Bill does not go far enough, this legislation will allow for a greater a number of people to benefit from having their conviction(s) erased after a certain period of time, allowing people to move on with their lives. The legislation introduces the principle of proportionality in rehabilitation periods, in contrast to the current seven-year blanket rehabilitation period for all eligible convictions. The Bill also makes special distinct provisions for young adults (18-24 year olds).

More info:  


3. If elected, will you progress legislation to help protect all people deprived of their liberty from potential ill-treatment and torture?

Issue: Human rights abuses can take place unseen behind closed doors. External independent monitoring of all places where people can be deprived of their liberty in Ireland (e.g. nursing homes, psychiatric units, child special care units, prisons, garda stations) needs to be strengthened to prevent potential torture and ill-treatment. Ireland is one of the last three remaining European countries yet to ratify OPCAT, despite repeated government commitments since Ireland signed the treaty in 2007.

Action: Bring forward legislation to ratify the OPCAT and establish a National Preventive Mechanism to improve accountability in all places where people can be detained.  

Outcome: All people deprived of their liberty are afforded greater human rights protections through a greater level of domestic and international inspections.          

More info:

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



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