Irish Penal Reform Trust

‘Our Shared Future’ – Draft Programme for Government 2020+

IPRT strongly welcomes many of the proposals in the draft Programme for Government which has been agreed between coalition parties Fianna Fáil, Fine Gael and the Green Party. While the draft has been officially published, it should be noted that the document will need to be approved by party members before it is signed off.

The commitments relating to prisons and penal reform in Our Shared Future, if adopted by party memberships and implemented by the next government, will help to build safer and more equal communities for everyone. Taken together, the justice proposals offer a strong basis for a joined-up approach that is led by the evidence of what works to prevent and reduce crime, support victims, improve rehabilitation, and reduce inequalities.

In advance of the 2020 General Election, IPRT campaigned vigorously on 5 key recommendations for the Programme for Government 2020+. It is heartening that all of these priorities, in some form, have made it into the draft Programme for Government. This, in no small part, is due to successful collaborative working and information sharing with other civil society groups, academics, and IPRT supporters.

Commitments relating to IPRT’s 2020 General Election recommendations:

  • Ratify and implement the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture within 18 months of the formation of the Government.
  • Establish a high-level cross-departmental and cross-agency taskforce to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those imprisoned and primary care support on release.
  • Review the Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 to broaden the range of convictions that are considered spent.
  • Establish a Penal Policy Consultative Council to advise on penal policy.
  • Work with all criminal justice agencies to build capacity to deliver restorative justice, safely and effectively.

As well as the key priorities IPRT campaigned on for inclusion in the Programme for Government 2020+, other longstanding areas of IPRT’s work towards progressive reform of penal policy are reflected in the draft Programme, including:

  • Examine increasing the age limit for the application of the Garda Youth Diversion Programme to 24 years old.
  • Implement a new Youth Justice Strategy, drawing on learnings for the Icelandic model and emphasising prevention, early intervention, and inter-agency collaboration.
  • Review the existing functions, powers, appointment procedures and reporting processes for prison visiting committees.
  • Fully implement the EU Victims of Crime Directive including the full provision of victim liaison officers.
  • Ensure that aftercare and transition plans and protocols are developed for vulnerable homeless people or those at risk of homelessness leaving hospital, state care, foster care, prison, or other state settings.
  • Examine the introduction of a new ground of discrimination based on socio-economic disadvantaged status to the Employment Equality and Equal Status Acts.

These draft commitments indicate an intention to build a government that prioritises evidence-led legislation and policies, supported by research. Should these commitments be approved by the parties’ memberships, IPRT will work constructively with the next government and all stakeholders in order to progress action on these areas. Where necessary, IPRT will continue to be a strong independent voice in holding the State to account in realising their commitments.

Of course, much more needs be done to ensure a fair and humane penal system in Ireland (see 'PIPS'). Although these commitments are welcome, we will remain alert to the potential return of regressive criminal justice proposals and continue to counter any such proposals with evidence and research. We will continue to work with all Oireachtas members towards achieving a world-class penal system in Ireland – one which respects the human rights of everyone and uses imprisonment only as a sanction of last resort.

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

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