30th March 2023
Dear members and supporters,
Welcome to another edition of the IPRT Ebulletin! Reflecting the very busy first quarter we’ve had, we have a lot of information for you in this edition. We have updates on recent events (in case you missed them), a short round-up of recent publications and submissions, new organisational memberships and more.
To any new supporters joining us after attending our recent event: welcome aboard!
Following another period of policy submissions and events, the IPRT team is busy finalising our Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) report for launch due to launch in May, hiring a new Legal and Public Affairs Manager for maternity cover and finalising details of funded projects. You can look forward to updates in these areas from us soon!
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.
All the best,
IPRT Communications Officer
In early March, IPRT held an in-person launch event at Wood Quay Venue, Dublin to launch our new project on children and families of people in prison. At the event we were pleased to publish our latest report ‘Maternal Imprisonment in Ireland: A Scoping Study’.
The 'Maternal Imprisonment in Ireland: A Scoping Study' report examines the numbers and experiences of mothers imprisoned in Ireland, and of their children. It makes recommendations for actions that would reduce the harm caused to these children and families, and particularly for reducing female imprisonment. The need to consider the impact on children when sentencing mothers, and particularly consider non-custodial measures when sentencing mothers, were named in the report as part of the 29 recommendations.
The work of the Action for Children and Families of Prisoners Network can be viewed here.
IPRT aims to work with social enterprises where possible and suitable. This event included catering from a social enterprise – we hope attendees enjoyed the tasty pastries! Read more about #BuySocialIRL here.
In January, IPRT attended the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) in Geneva to highlight the need for urgent Government action on youth justice and children with a family member in prison in Ireland. Alongside Irish civil society colleagues, we made representations on the changes needed to the Children Act 2001. IPRT called for the application of the Irish child justice system to all children, including those who turn 18 while awaiting trial; raising the age of criminal responsibility to 14; and the explicit recognition of children with a family member in prison as a vulnerable group in need of specific supports in the new policy framework for children and young people.
While it is disappointing that there was no express mention of children with a family member in prison as a group in need of particular protection in the concluding observations, as advocated by IPRT, we welcomed a number of the recommendations made. These include the need for the State to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into national legislation (echoing a similar recommendation in IPRT’s Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland (2021) report) and the recognition of children from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds throughout the conclusions.
Earlier this month, IPRT welcomed the publication of the Joint Committee on Justice’s Report on the topic of ‘Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill 2022’.
This Bill, and the ratification of OPCAT, represents an historic opportunity to strengthen the culture of human rights within Irish detention facilities and put in place safeguards to ensure that some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society are protected.
Read our full response here.
Read more detail on IPRT's position in our article 'A Review of the General Scheme of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill' on PILA Ireland's website here.
As many restrictions from the COVID-19 pandemic have lifted, we have been able to resume our on-site visits to prisons in Ireland. The purpose of the majority of these visits is to speak with key staff about the current situation and challenges they may face, and to see the prison facilities and the staff's work across the prison. Since January, IPRT staff have visited the new Limerick Female Prison, Midlands Prison in Portlaoise, Shelton Abbey Open Prison in Wicklow as well as attending an event at the Dóchas Centre in Dublin.
IPRT Strategic Plan 2023-2026
Since August 2022, we have been working on developing our strategic plan with independent consultant Kathleen O’Meara. Through this process we conducted a thorough review of IPRT’s achievements and conducted several workshops to develop key foundational statements including our vision, mission and values. Key audiences and stakeholders were engaged with, including those with direct lived experience.
We are now delighted to announce that our Board has approved IPRT’s Strategic Plan 2023-2026.
Our new Strategic Plan can be viewed here.
In February, IPRT spoke out in the media around our grave concern in response to published figures showing that the Irish prison estate has reached capacity. Total numbers of people in prison in Ireland exceeded the number of beds available and this trend has continued in the month since. This is an issue that repeatedly came up during IPRT’s visits to prisons and IPRT remains extremely concerned by the challenges this brings for prison management, staff and – most importantly – people detained in our prisons.
This week, IPRT staff attended the Mental Health Reform Member’s Showcase event in the Mansion House. We connected with Mental Health Reform Coalition members and discussed opportunities for future work together. We also met with a number of political representatives – TDs, Senators and Councillors - and discussed IPRT’s work on mental health in prisons and our wider work on penal reform.
IPRT, as part of our work on children and families impacted by imprisonment, met with Children of Prisoners Europe (COPE) on 13 February 2023. IPRT is currently an application member of COPE and is in the process of becoming full members, with the aim of completing the process by June. We hope to become full members of COPE to allow for further information sharing with organisations working with children of prisoners and to better inform our work in this area.
Read more about the meeting here.
IPRT recently joined the Trans Equality Together coalition, a network working to create an Ireland where transgender and non-binary people are equal, safe and valued. IPRT feel our membership of the coalition is particularly important given that our previous research ‘Out on the Inside: The Rights, Experiences and Needs of LGBT People in Prison’ described LGBT prisoners and ex-prisoners as a “doubly-marginalised” group - both in LGBT service provision on the outside, and in prison policy and practice on the inside.
We had a busy month in February for funding and research tender announcements. Here’s a list of the exciting projects we’re partnering with.
Researchers announced for ‘Working with Conviction’ project (February 2023)
Mental Health Reform, a coalition of which IPRT is a member of, is launching a Grassroots Forum for people with lived experience of mental health difficulties. This includes people who have directly engaged with mental health services in Ireland and a family member, carer, friend or supporter of a person who has engaged with mental health services.
The Forum will be involved in the follow activities:
Meetings will be held online with the Grassroots Forum every quarter. There will also be some opportunities to meet in person.
IPRT members and supporters can put themselves forward for consideration to fill IPRT’s two nominated seats on the Forum. Please email email@example.com for more information or to express interest.
We understand the importance of having a phone line available for people who may want to contact us for a host of different reasons. If you or someone you know would like to call us, please see the details below.
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.
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: