Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #90

1st March 2017

  1. Introduction
  2. New IPRT Project: Progress in the Penal System (PIPS)
  3. Issues Facing Women in Detention in Ireland Raised at CEDAW
  4. Health and Mental Health Care in Prisons
  5. Facing Forward: Restorative Justice Training
  6. Legislative Developments
  7. Library: Prison Reports & International Reports
  8. Become a Member or a Friend of IPRT

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Welcome to the first edition of the IPRT Ebulletin in 2017.

Since the Christmas and New Year break, IPRT has been busy planning our work for 2017. Activities include an exciting new human rights in prison project Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) - more of which below. Other plans for 2017 include campaign work around Spent Convictions – to raise awareness around existing expungement schemes in Ireland (including their limitations), and to generate support for change; engagement with Ireland’s examination by the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in July 2017; and an IHREC-funded research and campaign project: ‘Abolishing Solitary Confinement in Prisons in Ireland’.

In February 2017, Ireland was examined under the UN Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). IPRT made a submission in advance of the hearing, and also travelled to Geneva to raise issues faced by women in the criminal justice system in Ireland directly with the UN. Aoife Hyde and Neil Rafter finished their internship placements at IPRT at the end of January. During their time with us, they worked on issues ranging from CEDAW and parole reform to international human rights standards, and much more. We wish them best of luck in their future endeavours. New Interns Pamela Drumgoole and Aisling Bruen joined us in February and are already an integral part of the IPRT team.

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments. Contact Lorraine Whitty, Membership & Communications Officer:


New IPRT Project: Progress in the Penal System (PIPS)

IPRT has received funding for an exciting new project that aims to assess the current situation of human rights in Irish prisons. The project will scrutinise the government and criminal justice agencies on its progress in the penal system, through the development of IPRT standards and assessing issues against international human rights standards and best practice. The report will cover wide-ranging areas of penal policy including prison conditions, regimes and access to education and services. It will identify the current gaps in service provision and independently monitor and track progress over the next three years.

Michelle Martyn, IPRT Senior Research and Policy Manager, is centrally involved in the design, research and delivery of this publication, with the support of a Research Advisory Group. If anyone would like to raise any issues that may inform this project, contact Michelle Martyn on


Issues Facing Women in Detention in Ireland Raised at CEDAW

CEDAW ThumbnailIreland is sending too many women to prison for non-violent offences, including failure to pay court-ordered fines, and the lack of provision of gender-specific alternatives to prison and the lack of open prison facilities for women may amount to discrimination under the UN Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

These were among the key issues that IPRT raised in our submission to the UN in advance of Ireland’s examination under CEDAW, which took place on Wednesday 15th February 2017.

IPRT travelled to Geneva as part of a delegation of Irish NGO stakeholders for the oral hearings in front of the CEDAW Committee on Monday 13th February 2017. The Irish Government was examined by the CEDAW Committee on Wednesday 15th February 2017, with key questions asked by the Committee on conditions for women in prison in Ireland.

Find out more:

  • IPRT submission, including recommendations here.
  • IPRT briefing, including recommendations, here.
  • IPRT press release in advance of the hearing here.
  • Watch IPRT's hearing here. (NWCI' Orla O'Connor oral statement on behalf of IPRT at 0:14:23, IHREC oral statement at 2:10:00)
  • Watch the State examination here. (Madame Schultz questions on women in detention at 2:08:20)

IPRT welcomed this chance to shine an international spotlight on the situation of women in prison in Ireland, and to recommend steps the Irish State must take to address discrimination against women in the criminal justice system and ensure better outcomes for women, their families and the community.

The Committee’s Recommendations to the Irish State will be issued on Monday 6th March 2017.


Health and Mental Health Care in Prisons

Irish prisons were compared to asylums by representatives of the Irish Prison Service (IPS) at a Public Accounts Committee (PAC) hearing on Thursday 2nd February 2017. IPS Director General Michael Donnellan, when speaking to the PAC, described mental health issues in the Irish prison population as “a massive problem” and said they have, at any one time, up to 30 people in prison who are psychotic or are waiting for a place in an acute mental facility. A report in The Irish Times by Sorcha Pollak states that More than 70% of prisoners ‘have addiction issues’.

Speaking on Drivetime on Thursday 2nd February 2017, Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Executive Director of IPRT, said that it is estimated that just under 8% of prisoners on remand at Cloverhill Prison have symptoms of psychosis - a figure ten times greater than that in the community. She said that IPRT is very concerned about the number of people on remand in Cloverhill Prison waiting for transfer to appropriate treatment facilities including the Central Mental Hospital, adding that the capacity of forensic mental health beds should be trebled. She also pointed to some examples of good practice, such as the Prison In-reach and Court Liaison Service in Cloverhill Prison, and also the High Support Unit in Mountjoy Prison. However, vulnerable care units are needed in all prisons.

To read more, and to listen to the Drivetime interview, click here.

IPRT welcomed the Review of Prison Healthcare cited by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald on the publication of the report Healthcare in Irish Prisons on 21st February 2017. This was the final report of Judge Michael Reilly, RIP, who passed away in November 2016.

To read more about the report, click here.


Facing Forward: Restorative Justice Training

FF logoFacing Forward supports the introduction of restorative justice approaches in Ireland. They do this through: advocacy; research; as restorative justice facilitators; and through training.

Facing Forward will hold a one-day training event - 'Introductory Restorative Practice Workshop' - on Wednesday 29th March 9.30am to 5pm in The Wisdom Centre, 25 Cork Street, Dublin 8. Cost of attendance is €70.

Workshop participants will:

  • Understand what restorative practice means;
  • Understand the restorative approach to harm and injury;
  • Understand what working WITH means and the importance of relationships;
  • Applications of restorative practice;
  • Take away a workbook for future reference;
  • Get some practical experience of working restoratively;
  • Explore examples of the application of restorative approaches.

For more information on the workshop, and to learn more about Facing Forward and restorative practice, visit


Legislative Developments

Recent legislative developments relevant to prisons and penal reform

A. IPRT Presentation to Joint Committee on Justice and Equality

The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality focused on the issues of Prisons, Penal Policy and Sentencing when it met with IPRT on Wednesday 8th February 2017.

IPRT was represented by Fíona Ní Chinnéide (Acting Executive Director) and Michelle Martyn (Senior Research and Policy Manager). They gave a presentation on IPRT’s vision of an innovative, just, humane and effective penal system, covering topics such as the need for a coherent, evidence-informed penal policy; the need for sentencing reforms; ensuing consistency in the availability, use and operation of community sanctions; reducing prison numbers and improving prison conditions. Issues also discussed with the Committee were the need for more robust Spent Convictions legislation; the upcoming Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016; the role of the media in reporting on crime; and effective post-release supports.

For more information:

B. Parole Bill 2016

On 15th June 2016, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan TD introduced a draft Private Member's Bill entitled Parole Bill 2016 before the Dáil. The Joint Committee on Justice and Equality scrutinised the Bill on 15th February 2017.

The main purpose of this Bill is to place the Parole Board on a statutory footing.Reform of the Parole Board by placing it on a statutory basis, fully independent of political control, governed by clear and fair decision-making protocols, has long been a key objective of IPRT. Many of the recommendations included in previous IPRT policy documents on parole reform are reflected in the draft Parole Bill 2016, including: that prisoners should be entitled to legal representation before the Parole Board; that full details of the Board’s decision to grant or refuse parole is provided to prisoners; and that the Board is structured to ensure that it has the required expertise, including psychiatrists and psychologists, to make responsible release decisions. IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone told Irish Legal News that “scrutiny of the passage of the Bill will be essential to ensure that [the] key value of independence is promoted and preserved.”

Read more:

 C. Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016

On Thursday 1st December, a Private Member’s Bill introduced by Clare Daly TD, the Prisons (Solitary Confinement) (Amendment) Bill 2016 was debated in the Dáil, and proceeded to committee stage. It was scrutinised by the Joint Committee for Justice and Equality on 15th February 2017. The Bill, if passed, will create a definition of solitary confinement in Irish law for the first time, and would place statutory restrictions on holding prisoners in isolation for long periods. IPRT strongly welcomes the attention that is being paid to this serious issue.

Read more on the issue here.

D. Minimum Custodial Periods upon Conviction for Murder Bill 2017

The Minimum Custodial Periods upon Conviction for Murder Bill 2017 - Second Stage Seanad debate took place on 22nd February 2017. IPRT recommends that any proposed changes to minimum custodial periods should take place within the context of parole reform. Alternatives to presumptive sentencing recommended by the Law Reform Commission, such as collection of data and for the establishment of a Judicial Council empowered to develop and publish non-statutory sentencing guidelines, should be considered.

The debate transcript can be viewed here.

E. Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016

The Bail (Amendment) Bill 2016: Second Stage was debated in the Dáil on Wednesday 8th February 2017. It has now proceeded to Committee stage. While IPRT welcomes increased openness and transparency around bail decisions, IPRT cautions against possible over-use of bail conditions, particularly if they are not relevant to the circumstances or risk of offending by the accused.

Read more on the issue here.


Library: Prison Reports and International Reports

Resources - Ireland

A. Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners January 2017

The Irish Prison Service has published its quarterly census of Restricted Regime Prisoners in the Irish prison system. The figures show that the number of prisoners on 22 and 23 hour lock-up went from 31 in October 216, to 72 in January 2017 - an increase of 41. Read more.

B. Census of In-Cell Sanitation and Occupancy in Irish Prisons January 2017

The Irish Prison Service has published its quarterly statistical analysis of prison population, cell occupancy and in-cell sanitation for January 2017. Figures show that 49 prisoners (1%) were required to slop out, and 1,527 prisoners (42%) were required to use the toilet in the presence of another prisoner. Read more.

C. Review of Drug and Alcohol Treatment Services for Adult Offenders in Prison and in the Community

The Probation and Prison Services have published an independent review of the drug and alcohol treatment services available to offenders. The report highlights a number of specific challenges with respect to treating women prisoners, and estimates that 85% of the women coming to the Dóchas Centre (the main prison for women in the State) have addiction issues. Read more.

Resources - International

A. Norway: 'Women in Prison: A Thematic Report about the conditions for female prisoners in Norway'

Women in Prison' is the first thematic report published by the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman under its UN mandate as the national preventive mechanism against torture and ill-treatment. Read more.

B. UK: Prison and Probation Ombudsman's 'Learning Lessons Bulletin Number 3: on Transgender Prisoners'

This 'Learning Lessons' bulletin explores the care and management of transgender individuals while in prison. Read more.

C. UK: 'Overlooked and Overrepresented: Gypsy, Traveller and Roma children in the youth justice system'

An analysis of 12-18-year-old Gypsy, Traveller and Roma perceptions of their experiences in Secure Training Centres and Young Offender Institutions.  Read more.

D. UK: Review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales

The Ministry of Justice has just published a comprehensive review of the Youth Justice System in England and Wales. Published in December 2016, the report outlines key issues and challenges within the system. Read more.


Become a Member or  Friend of IPRT

Would you like to become a member of IPRT?

Annual membership is just €10 for students, €40 for individuals, €80 for organisations/firms, and free to prisoners and their families.

By becoming a member of IPRT you will be expressing your support for urgent penal reform in Ireland. Why not consider becoming an IPRT member now?

Friends of IPRT

Become a Friend of IPRT and join a growing network of people who believe in a better, more fair and more humane penal system in Ireland.

By becoming a Friend of IPRT and making an annual contribution of €250 or more over a 3-year period, you are making a real, meaningful investment in the work that we do. Your pledge will help to secure our core work, ensuring that IPRT can and will continue to advocate for positive penal policy reform in Ireland. Become a Friend here in three simple, secure steps.

IPRT relies on donations from charitable trusts, individual donations and membership subscriptions to cover operational costs. We have also received funding from two donor-advised funds managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland, and we were one of the awardees for the inaugural Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme, run by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission. IPRT receives core funding from the Department of Justice and Equality and:

Funders 2017

Our work is supported by

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



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