Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #112

23rd December 2021

Subscribe to IPRT news here. View this edition on Mailchimp here

IPRT Ebulletin #112

End-of-year message and announcement from IPRT’s Executive Director

Dear members and supporters,

I am pleased to be writing IPRT’s final message to you in 2021.

After almost 13 years working with IPRT, I will be leaving my post on 8th February 2022 to take up a new opportunity. It has been a privilege to work alongside all of the staff and Board of IPRT throughout the years, and to have had the opportunity to be part of a dynamic and effective organisation that has consistently punched above its weight and achieved real and lasting change. The hard work, passion and commitment of the whole IPRT team, our Board, and the many champions and supporters of penal reform across the sector, both here and abroad, continue to inspire me every day. I look forward to watching where IPRT goes to next, because it is sure to be impressive!

When I leave my post on 8th February 2021, I will leave IPRT in the very capable hands of Molly Joyce, currently Deputy Director, who will take up the role of Acting Executive Director while recruitment is ongoing. The post of Executive Director will be advertised in the first week of January 2022.

Reflecting on my final full year as Executive Director, I am proud of all we have achieved together in 2021, despite the challenges we have continued to face and overcome. Progressive developments in 2021 that IPRT has been working towards in recent years, include:

  • The commencement of the Parole Act 2019 and the establishment of a statutory Parole Board;
  • Publication of an evidence-based progressive Youth Justice Strategy;
  • Public consultation on the review of the Prison Rules 2007;
  • Establishment of the High Level Task Force to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of people interacting with the criminal justice system;
  • Passage of the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 through the Seanad; and more.

At the same time, 2021 has not been the year we hoped it would be at this time last year. For people in prison and their families and friends outside, the challenges of 2020 have been compounded in 2021.

Despite recent progress, there is still so much more that needs to be done.

As well as our persistent advocacy, in early 2022, IPRT will: publish the fifth edition of our annual project benchmarking reform and human rights in the Irish penal system (PIPS); publish vital research on race and ethnicity in the Irish penal system; undertake a scoping study on access to rights for people detained in forensic mental health settings; and commence an All-Island project with Northern Ireland partners NIACRO to facilitate coordinated approaches across policy and practices towards prevention of offending and reoffending. We will be continuing work on projects including Action for Children and Families of Prisoners and the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform.

Huge thanks to my IPRT team colleagues – Molly, Sarahjane, Lorraine, and Pamela, along with our volunteers from across 2021, Shauna, Agnel, Sean, Declan, Ella, Danielle, Eamonn, Ellen and Hannah – whose dedication to penal reform was unwavering throughout 2021. Thank you all.

Thanks to the many organisations who shared their expertise with IPRT throughout the year, including: Citywide, Focus Ireland, Travellers in Prison Initiative, National Traveller Women's Forum, Release, PACE, Women in Prison (UK) and NIACRO.

Thanks to our members, donors and funders who continued to support our work, including: Pobal, Department of Justice, Community Foundation for Ireland, Mercy Congregation, Katharine Howard Foundation, St Stephen's Green Trust, and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

Finally, I would like to thank the men and women in prison and the families outside, who have continued to find time to inform and engage with IPRT on the issues and experiences of prison throughout 2021. However difficult we have found the past 12 months, it has been so much harder for people in prison and their loved ones outside. As a person connected to prison said to me in early 2021: "Jail is tougher now." It has stayed with me since.

On behalf of the IPRT team, I wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season, and very best wishes for the New Year.

Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Executive Director

The (virtual) IPRT office closed at 1pm today (Thursday 23 December) and will re-open at 9am Tuesday 4 January 2021.

Thank you for your continued support this year. None of our work would have been possible without our supporters. Whether you have supported us financially, shared our messages online, given us feedback on our work or cheered us on from afar, our year would not have been the same without you.

We wish all of our supporters a peaceful Christmas and a happy New Year.

First global mapping of vaccination in prisons

Penal Reform International (PRI) and Harm Reduction International (HRI) recently published a report outlining how prison populations and staff were included in national vaccination plans, and the current roll-out of vaccines in prison worldwide. The report found that Ireland performs well in terms of our prison vaccination rate when compared to many countries. However, the lack of clarity regarding the prioritisation of prisons in Ireland’s vaccination plans was highlighted in the report.

While IPRT welcomes the work that has been done to achieve the high vaccination rate in Irish prisons, vaccination is only one metric by which Ireland’s performance during the pandemic can be measured. Favourable vaccination rates should not distract from the need for additional measures to meet the rights of people in prison while managing the risks of COVID-19. Ongoing restrictions in Irish prisons are having a severely detrimental impact on men and women in prison.

Read IPRT’s response here.
Read the PRI and HRI report here.

Office of the Inspector of Prisons COVID-19 Thematic Inspection Reports

The Office of the Inspector of Prisons recently published four further COVID-19 Thematic Inspection Reports for Shelton Abbey, Cork Prison, Portlaoise Prison and Arbour Hill Prison.

Along with concerns about the impact of the COVID-19 response on the rights and mental health of people in prison, particularly on the use of solitary confinement, several of the reports also detail alleged instances of racial discrimination by a small number of officers. This is not the first time such allegations have been made in prisons. In spring 2022, IPRT will publish a report on the rights and experiences of migrants, foreign nationals, and ethnic minorities in Ireland's penal system.

Read IPRT's response to the latest COVID-19 Thematic Inspection Reports here.

The Inspectorate also published the results of the COVID-19 Prison Staff Survey this week, which found that prison officers' stress levels worsened during the pandemic. The majority of respondents (90%) reported that COVID-19 had an impact on prisoner wellbeing.

Media coverage:

Mental Health Commission: ‘Access to Mental Health Services for People in the Criminal Justice System’

On 15th November, the Mental Health Commission published a new overarching report on access to mental health services for people in the criminal justice system, conducted by the Inspector of Mental Health Services, with support of the Chief Inspector of Prisons.

The report, unsurprisingly, finds that people in the criminal justice system do not have the same access to or quality of mental health care as the general population; it also found the practice of locking people with severe mental illness in isolation units in prison while they await appropriate care “fundamentally breaches their human rights”. In response, IPRT called for a fundamental shift in how we treat people with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system, with diversion available at all points. Many of the findings relate to issues that have been prevalent in the justice system for many years, on which IPRT has consistently campaigned over decades. IPRT endorses the findings and recommendations of the Mental Health Commission report in full. 

Read IPRT's statement on publication of the MHC report here.

In 2022, IPRT will publish a scoping study on access to rights for people detained in secure forensic mental health settings in Ireland. The research is supported by a grant of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). Watch this space for further updates in early 2022.

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. We have also received funding from donor-advised funds and project funds managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland and project funding from the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
IPRT receives core funding from:


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

December 2021

Our work is supported by

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



Contact us

This website uses cookies to provide a good browsing experience

Some are necessary to help our website work properly and can't be switched off, and some are optional. Click on "Choose cookies" below for more information on the cookies being used on this website. Please note that based on your settings, not all functions of the website may be available. You can manage your preferences by visiting “Cookie preferences" at the bottom of any page.

This website uses cookies to provide a good browsing experience

Some are necessary to help our website work properly and can't be switched off, and some are optional. Please choose the cookies to allow below. Please note that based on your settings, not all functions of the website may be available. You can manage your preferences by visiting “Cookie preferences" at the bottom of any page.

Your cookie preferences have been saved.