Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #116

22nd December 2022

Subscribe to IPRT news here.

IPRT Ebulletin #116


An end of year message from IPRT's Executive Director

Dear members, friends, and supporters, 

As the year draws to a close, we reflect on everything IPRT has achieved this year. 

The past few months have been very exciting for IPRT with several new additions to the team. Despite that, our team has been remarkably busy! This edition of the Ebulletin is packed with successes, including recent highlights, updates on our recent research, and news from the sector. 

It’s fair to say that 2022 has been a year of change for IPRT. However, the steadfast commitment of our small but dedicated team has remained constant. We have continued to be highly productive, impactful and maintain an impressive public profile despite a changeover in Executive Director and reduced staff capacity at various times during the year. 

In September, we also held our first in-person AGM since before the pandemic which provided a great opportunity to meet with members and discuss our key priorities for the upcoming year. I believe we are at a tipping point for progressive penal policy in terms of commitments made, political leadership and the current momentum to see meaningful change for the better in the system.  

Yet we know that the number of people in prison each day is continuing to climb to historic levels, we have only just seen the return of weekly physical prison visits in December 2022, and that there is significant unmet mental health need in prison. While we acknowledge the State’s progress on policy commitments, we need to see these made a reality and IPRT will continue to use our fearless voice to make sure that these commitments are delivered and that rights are realised. 

As I head on my maternity leave at Christmas, I leave IPRT in the incredibly capable hands of Molly Joyce who will be Acting Executive Director.  

On behalf of the IPRT team, we wish all of our supporters a peaceful festive break and a happy New Year. 

Saoirse Brady, 

Executive Director 

Holiday closing

The IPRT office closes on Friday 23 December and will re-open at 9am on Tuesday 3 January. Due to a line fault, our phone line will be inaccessible until then. In the meantime, you can contact us on 

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. 

As always, feel free to get in touch with any feedback or comments on our work. The best way to get real-time updates on our work is to join us on social media

New team members

We’re delighted to welcome three brand new team members to IPRT and to welcome back a familiar face, growing our team to the largest it’s ever been. 

Paula Dempsey joined the IPRT team as the Governance and Administration Officer in September 2022. She provides general administrative support to the office and helps to ensure compliance with relevant governance. 

We were incredibly pleased to welcome back Pamela Drumgoole to the team. She’s taken up the position of Policy and Research Coordinator. Her work focuses on developing and coordinating our comprehensive body of evidence-led research and policy outputs to influence public and political debate. A core aspect of her role is leading the research and delivery of IPRT’s flagship project, ‘Progress in the Penal System’. 

Ashling Tobin took up the exciting brand-new role of Project Coordinator for IPRT’s Children and Families Initiative. She’s responsible for leading, coordinating and implementing the Initiative over the next three years. 

Michelle Byrne joined the IPRT in the last couple of weeks as the Communications Officer. She will be working to ensure that our comprehensive body of evidence-led research and policy reaches key audiences to influence penal reform. 

L-R: Paula, Pamela, Saoirse, Molly, Michelle, Ashling

High Level Task Force Report and Recommendations  

IPRT welcomed the Final Report and recommendations of the High Level Task Force to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of those who come into contact with the criminal justice sector.  

The publication of this report delivers on a key Programme for Government commitment and builds on previous reports, including from the Interdepartmental Group established to examine issues relating to people with mental illness who come in contact with the criminal justice system, published in 2009, 2012 and 2018 respectively.  

Once implemented, the recommendations will result in a more humane criminal justice system and safer society for all. 

  • For our response to the report and recommendations, see here

  • To read IPRT’s submission to the taskforce, see here

Access to Rights for People Detained in Secure Forensic Mental Health Facilities  

On Tuesday 25 October 2022, IPRT and the Irish Criminal Bar Association (ICBA) held a Prison Law Seminar on the topic of Access to Rights for People Detained in Secure Forensic Mental Health Facilities in Ireland.  

This was the first in IPRT’s 2022 Prison Law Seminar Series and we launched a new IPRT scoping study examining the rights frameworks applicable to people detained in Ireland’s Central Mental Hospital (CMH). 

This month, we were pleased to accept an invite to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on Mental Health where IPRT's Legal and Public Affairs Manager and Deputy Director, Molly Joyce, presented an overview of our report and answered questions from politicians at the committee meeting. 

  • To read the scoping study and a round-up of the launch event, see here. Watch the recording on our Youtube here

  • To read our opening statement to the Oireachtas Sub-Committee, see here. Watch the recording on our Youtube here

IPRT meeting with Minister for Justice 

IPRT’s Executive Director and Legal & Public Affairs Manager met with Minister for Justice Helen McEntee on 9 November 2022. This provided IPRT with an opportunity to raise key concerns directly with the Minister, including; 

  • Progress of key legislation such as the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018  

  • Plans to extend the remit of the Parole Board to determinate sentenced prisoners 

  • Plans for monitoring implementation of the High Level Task Force recommendations 

  • Increasing overcrowding within the prison system and ways in which this might be addressed.  

IPRT will follow up on matters discussed in this meeting with Acting Minister for Justice Simon Harris and Minister McEntee upon her return from maternity leave.  

OPCAT roundtable event with international experts 

On Monday 21 November 2022, IPRT hosted a roundtable meeting, supported by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC) to discuss ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). The ratification of OPCAT is closer now than ever thanks to the recent publication of the General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill.  

The roundtable provided an opportunity for key statutory stakeholders to hear directly from international experts Steven Caruana (Specialist Advisor on OPCAT at the Australian Human Rights Commission); Pétur Hauksson (Chair of NPM Observatory); and Sharon Shalev (Research Associate at the Centre for Criminology at the University of Oxford). The roundtable was followed by a political briefing in Leinster House, hosted by Deputy Jennifer Carroll MacNeill as co-chair of the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform and at which the experts shared their views with TDs and Senators.  

A Knowledge Exchange Seminar on Living with Conviction 

On Thursday 24 November 2022 the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and NIACRO came together to organise this important event, exploring the barriers for people with criminal convictions histories on the island of Ireland. Representatives from a wide range of agencies, including prison, justice, employment, and other stakeholders, explored current practices and assessed the opportunities for change in this area. 

To read about the event or to watch the panels back, see here

IPRT response: Evidence Review of Community Service Policy, Practice and Structure 

On Tuesday 6th December 2022, the Irish Probation Service held an online event for the launch of their research report: Evidence Review of Community Service Policy, Practice and Structure. 

To read IPRT’s response, see here

Developing our strategic plan 

Since August 2022, we have been working on developing our strategic plan with independent consultant Kathleen O’Meara. Through this process we have conducted a thorough review of IPRT’s achievements, conducted several workshops to develop key foundational statements including our vision, mission and values. Key external stakeholders were also interviewed about IPRT’s work.  

We felt it was particularly important to engage with key audiences and stakeholders including those with direct lived experience, so in December 2022, we held focus groups in the Progression Unit in Mountjoy and with women from the BRIO Programme in the SAOL project as well as holding a session to present the draft plan to our members. The final plan will be signed off by IPRT’s Board in January 2023 and published early in the new year. 

IPRT attendance at 93rd pre-session of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) 

On 27 September 2022, IPRT appeared remotely at the 93rd pre-session of the UNCRC to raise concerns around youth justice in Ireland and the challenges facing children with a family member in prison. IPRT was delighted that several Committee members raised specific questions around overrepresentation of young people from minority ethnic groups in the criminal justice system; teacher training in the area of diversity; the administration of child justice; and raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14.  

The 92nd session of the UNCRC, at which Irish officials will appear before the Committee for review, will take place on 24 and 25 January 2023. IPRT will attend this session in person.  

Justice Committee Meeting on the General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill  

On 18 October 2022, IPRT appeared before the Justice Committee to discuss the recently published General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which paves the way for ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (OPCAT). It was positive to see agreement among the witnesses on key aspects of the Bill which require reform, particularly in regards ensuring the financial and operational independence of National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs) and securing sufficient funding to develop the new Inspectorate of Places of Detention and other NPMs in the future. IPRT looks forward to reading the Committee’s report on the Bill in due course, and to further working with the Committee and others to ensure this Bill is OPCAT-compliant and as strong as possible.  

To read IPRT’s submission on the Bill and a recent IPRT article published for PILA on the topic, see here and here. To read a transcript of the Committee meeting, see here.  

Recent External Publications 

IPRT in the news 

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: 

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.