Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #103

23rd December 2019

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IPRT Ebulletin 

December 2019

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT recruitment: Communications Officer
  3. Report launch: Disability in Detention (15th Jan 2020)
  4. Progress of Rehabilitative Periods Bill
  5. Developing Youth Justice
  6. IPRT in the News
  7. CPT Visit to Ireland
  8. Add your voice - become a Friend or Member 





bd30df7d-f017-43cf-a637-ad635a289e64.png Welcome to the final edition of the IPRT E-bulletin in 2019.

As the year draws to a close, we look back on another busy year for IPRT.

Highlights included publication of a new report Care and Justice: Children and Young People in Care and Contact with the Criminal Justice System, which found that contact with the youth justice system is a particular issue for a small cohort of young people. The report made 12 recommendations towards improving outcomes for this group of children and young people, and its findings will be considered in the forthcoming Youth Justice Strategy.

Throughout the year, IPRT engaged strongly with legislation introduced by Senator Lynn Ruane that aims to expand the reach and benefit of existing spent convictions legislation, which is too narrow to support its rehabilitation goals and benefits very few people with experience of prison. The Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 (PMB) passed third stage on 20th November 2019, and we look forward to supporting its progress in early 2020.

In September 2019, IPRT met with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) in advance of its visit to inspect places of detention in Ireland. Since 1993, the CPT has played a vital role in identifying critical issues that must be addressed in the prison system, while also identifying where good practices exist. We expect their report along with the Government response to be published autumn 2020.

In October 2019, IPRT launched our third annual Progress in the Penal System report (PIPS 2019). The event was attended by key stakeholders across justice, health and the prison system; Director General of the Irish Prison Service Caron McCaffrey delivered the keynote address. The theme of the 2019 edition is accountability, and the clear need for strong internal and external oversight mechanisms to ensure meaningful progress in Ireland’s penal system. We look forward to continuing to work with all stakeholders to progress key actions in 2020.

In November 2019, IPRT co-hosted a seminar with the Irish Criminal Bar Association on the benefits of a discrete approach for 18-24 year olds in the criminal justice system, and in December we finalised the updated version of Know Your Rights – Your Rights as a Prisoner booklet, which we will publish in spring 2020. A print edition will be made available in prisons, and an online version accessible to families, friends and services providers outside prison.

These are just the headline items – we also held seminars, events, engaged strongly in media debate on prisons and penal reform, made submissions to relevant policy and legal developments, worked alongside community-based organisations, and much more.

Despite progress achieved during 2019, this Christmas just 113 prisoners will be granted varying periods of temporary release - the lowest number given temporary release at Christmas since 2008. This comes a time when prison numbers have been steadily rising and prison is being used to warehouse the effects of social policy failures.

This underscores the need for a robust. active and effective penal reform organisation in 2020 and beyond. We look forward to working together to achieve further progress on key issues affecting people in prison, their families, their communities and all of society in 2020.

Finally, I would like to thank everyone currently in prison who have written to us over the past year with their experience of issues on the ground. It is invaluable and central to our work. Thank you.

For now, on behalf of the Board and staff of IPRT, we wish all our members and friends a happy and peaceful Christmas,


PS Please share the opportunity to work with IPRT below with anyone who you feel may be interested!

Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Executive Director




IPRT Recruitment: Communications Officer

Applications are now invited for the post of Communications Officer with the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT). This is a key function within the IPRT team, working to ensure that our comprehensive body of evidence-led research and policy reaches key audiences and influences public and political debate. It is an opportunity to work in a small impactful organisation, where your contribution has the potential to really make a difference.

This is a high-paced proactive and reactive role, where every day will bring a new challenge and opportunity to influence penal reform. There is great scope for a dynamic person with a passion for communication and social justice advocacy to bring their creativity and ideas to the role. The post offers an excellent opportunity for an ambitious candidate to work in a high profile, dynamic and effective non-governmental organisation.

IPRT is an equal opportunities employer, and we welcome applications from people with criminal records. We don’t ask for information about convictions during the recruitment process.

The closing date for applications is 5pm on Thursday 16th January 2020. Full details are available here.

1cd4cef6-6bc4-4707-810a-d18adac47d44.png We have a new logo as part of our 25th anniversary rebrand! The four lines represent prison bars, building to a positive orange endpoint. Orange was chosen to signify progress, enthusiasm and determination. Our website has also been completely revamped – check it out here.

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Report launch: Disability in Detention

On 15th January 2020, IPRT will launch a new report, 'Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Detention'  in the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

International research finds that prisoners with disabilities are often discriminated against and still encounter inaccessible spaces and a lack of support within prison. This research explores the experience of disabled prisoners in Ireland through interviews with prisoners, prison staff and other stakeholders. The research was commissioned by IPRT from the Centre for Disability Law and Policy (NUIG), and is led by Professor Eilionóir Flynn and kindly funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

The project aims, in the short term, to create a sound evidence base and raise awareness of intersectional discrimination and human rights breaches against people with/experiencing disabilities in detention. In the medium term, we wish to build capacity among civil society organisations and State bodies to recognise and address these challenges. Our ultimate aim is to make rights real; eliminate discrimination against this population.

Day/time: Wednesday, 15th January 2020 (11.00-13.00)
Venue: Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, Green Street, Dublin 7.
Refreshments: Light breakfast from 10.30am.
Registrations: To RSVP, please email Lorraine at 

Please note that capacity is limited at the venue, so register early to avoid disappointment!

This project is supported by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, under the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme 2018


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Progress of Rehabilitative Periods Bill

30e710e7-0234-49d2-8655-3615fb841fbd.jpg The Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 completed Committee Stage in Seanad Éireann on 20th November 2019 and is now at Report Stage. Of the 29 amendments tabled by Senator Ruane, none were opposed. The amendments included:

  • That the upper limit on the amount of convictions that may become spent is removed.
  • That there be a shorter rehabilitative period for the distinct cohort of 18 to <25 year olds.
  • That there be a rehabilitative period of just one year for eligible offences committed under the age of 18.
  • That a proportionality principle be introduced in determining the length of the rehabilitative period, rather than a blanket term of seven years.
  • That personal use possession offences under the Misuse of Drugs Act 1977 may become spent after three years.
  • That the Employment Equality Act 1998 be amended to make less favourable treatment of an employee by their employer, by reason of a spent conviction, constitute discrimination.

Keep up to date with IPRT's campaign to improve access to spent convictions schemes in Ireland here:

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Developing Youth Justice 2019


IPRT co-hosted a seminar with the Irish Criminal Bar Association on 21st November 2019 in the Distillery Building. The 'Developing Youth Justice' event focused on the need for a discrete approach for 18-24 year olds in the criminal justice system, including provisions in the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018, which would strengthen current spent convictions legislation for young adults.

IPRT was honoured that Minister David Stanton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality with special responsibility for youth justice, opened the seminar.


Since 2014, IPRT has campaigned for alternative and nuanced approaches to addressing offending by young people. International evidence supports the idea that most people ‘age-out’ of criminal activity in their late twenties. Research demonstrates that young adults are more responsive to rehabilitative measures than older adults, however the wrong interventions can deepen offending behaviour.

Speakers at the event included:

  • Minister David Stanton TD, Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality  
  • Senator Lynn Ruane
  • Ian Power, CEO of SpunOut and Crisis Text Line Ireland
  • Dr Laura Janes, Legal Director with the Howard League for Penal Reform
  • Sarah Jane Judge BL (barrister and lecturer)
  • Eddie D'Arcy (CEO of the Solas Project)

For more on the event, see here.

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IPRT in the News

IPRT plays an important role in promoting informed public debate on issues relating to penal reform and the use of prison as a sanction of last resort. Recent engagement across national and local media has focused in particular on reducing prison numbers, improving access to mental healthcare in prison, and calling for collaboration between government departments around prisoner release.

Highlights since the last e-bulletin include:

Irish Times: ‘Disturbing’ story of brain-damaged man in prison prompts calls for reform

Vanguard: Ireland advised to reduce prison numbers

Irish Times: Ireland needs to reduce prison numbers, say reform charity

Irish Examiner: Closed prisons ‘now at unsafe capacity’ raising violence risk

The Journal: Central Mental Hospital is at full capacity, prisoners with severe conditions wait 120 days for transfer

Irish Examiner: Close to half of prisoners re-offended within three years of release

Irish Mirror: Almost half of Irish prisoners released in 2012 reoffended, CSO stats reveal

Belfast Telegraph: Figures show almost half of people released from prison re-offend within 3 years

Dublin Live: Almost half of Irish prisoners released in 2012 reoffended, CSO stats show

Irish Independent: Figures show almost half of people released from prison re-offend within 3 years
Listen back:

Morning Ireland: Detention of brain-damaged man in prison a ‘social policy failure’

Kildare Focus, Kfm: Women’s mental health services and supports in Ireland’s prisons

Morning Ireland: Irish Penal Reform Trust publishes third annual report

Newstalk: Why do so many prisoners re-offend?

RTÉ News: Almost half of prisoners re-offend within three years of release

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CPT Visit to Ireland

A delegation of the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) visited Ireland for the seventh time from 23rd of September to the 4th October 2019. The purpose of the visit was to view the progress made in the implementation of the CPT’s recommendations since their 2014 visit.
The delegation met with Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, Director General of the Irish Prison Service Caron McCaffrey, Inspector of Prisons Patricia Gilheaney, and Deputy Secretary General of the Department of Justice and Equality, Oonagh McPhillips. The delegation also met with the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA), the Mental Health Commission, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the College of Psychiatrists of Ireland, Mental Health Reform, Inclusion Ireland and IPRT.

At the end of the visit, the delegation presented its preliminary observations to the Irish authorities. The delegation visited the following prisons; Arbour Hill, Cloverhill, Cork, Midlands and some units of Mountjoy prison. IPRT is committed to progressing the realisation of the CPT’s recommendations for improving conditions for people deprived of their liberty, including the ratification of OPCAT.

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Add your voice – become a Friend or Member

IPRT relies on a network of committed supporters who share our vision for change. By becoming a Friend or Member of IPRT, you add your voice to our campaign for a more humane and equitable penal system.

To find out more about supporting our work, please visit our Friends or Membership pages.


IPRT relies on donations from charitable trusts, individual donations and membership subscriptions to cover operational costs. Our CHY number is 11091.

We have also received funding from two donor-advised funds and two project funds managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland, we were one of the awardees for the inaugural Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and we received a donation from the St. Patrick’s Cathedral Community Giving & Charitable Funds in 2017 and 2018.


The Scheme to Support National Organisations is funded by the Government of Ireland through the Department of Rural and Community Development.

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



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