Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #98

17th October 2018

Ebulletin #98

  1. Introduction
  2. Seminar Fri 26 Oct: Progressing inside? PIPS 2018
  3. IPRT Annual Review 2017-2018
  4. Save the Date: Prison Law Seminar #ratifyOPCAT 
  5. Penal Reform Developments
  6. IPRT Resources: Parliamentary Questions
  7. Become a Member or a Friend of IPRT

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Welcome to the fifth edition of the IPRT Ebulletin in 2018!

It has been another busy period for IPRT, with a number of important developments in wider penal policy and penal reform so far this autumn.

We were delighted to meet with so many of our members at the 2018 Annual General Meeting of the Irish Penal Reform Trust where the IPRT Annual Review 2017-2018 was launched. It was a useful opportunity to reflect on the strides we have made towards progressive, evidence-based penal reform, and our own organisational sustainability, but also on the work and challenges remaining.

On 10th September, the Sixth Report of the Implementation Oversight Group of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy was published. While the report highlights that 236 milestones have now been deemed complete, it also highlights various major areas of concern in which there is a vital need for progress to be made.

In her letter to the Minister, one of Chairperson Dr Mary Rogan’s main concerns is that the ‘big picture’ of penal policy reforms is becoming lost and is exemplified in the slowly increasing prison numbers and the use of remand detention. She also highlighted that in the absence of supports for penal policymaking, there is a greater risk in reversing any past developments and improvements made within the sector and as such it is crucial that such supports are implemented. 

IPRT echoes the concerns of the Chair of the Group that in the absence of embedded consensus for penal policymaking and reform, we risk allowing the positive developments of the last few years to become vulnerable to erosion and reversal. Ireland’s penal policy must be based on the best available evidence and the policymaking process is as strong as it can be. Read more here

In October, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service Mr. Michael Donnellan announced that he is to step down at the end of November 2018. IPRT thanks Michael for his positive leadership over the past 7 years, and we look forward to working with his successor. While many progressive reforms in Ireland’s penal system have been achieved since his appointment in 2011, a number of critical goals remain, including the ratification of Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OPCAT); the establishment of a fully independent prisoner complaints mechanism; and the full implementation of the Irish Prison Service and Probation Service Joint Strategy for Women who Offend.

Other recent developments include the publication of: the first Self-Harm in Irish Prisons 2017 report; the Parole Board Annual Report 2017; and both the Oberstown Children Detention Campus Annual Report 2016/2017 and the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) report on an unannounced inspection of Oberstown undertaken in March 2018. You can read our analysis here. More detail on these and other developments are included below.

Upcoming IPRT events include 'Progressing inside? Ireland’s prison system in 2018', taking place on Friday 26th October, at which we will launch our second annual report on progress in Ireland’s penal system, PIPS 2018. Then on 12th November 2018, as part of our ongoing campaign to #ratifyOPCAT, IPRT will hold a Prison Law Seminar focusing on the practical application and implementation of the OPCAT. Please save the date and more details will follow soon.

There have been a number of changes within the IPRT office, with summer intern Aisling Troy finishing her placement after contributing hugely to the IPRT team, and autumn Policy & Advocacy interns Maebh Butler and Eibhlín Looney commencing their placements, providing valuable support to the IPRT team during this busy period.

Thank you again for your ongoing support of IPRT, and I look forward to updating you on our projects and progress for the rest of the year.

Deirdre Malone
Executive Director

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


Seminar Fri 26 Oct: Progressing inside? PIPS 2018 

PIPS 2018 launchOn Friday 26th October 2018, IPRT will host a seminar entitled 'Progressing inside? Ireland’s prison system in 2018' The seminar will examine whether progress in improving rights and practice in Ireland's prison system has been achieved since October 2017, and will focus on issues that can present barriers to prisoners' ability to progress inside, including inadequate access to education, training, and mental health supports.

As part of the seminar, IPRT will launch Progress in the Penal System 2018 (or PIPS 2018), the second in a series of annual reports benchmarking progress in Ireland's penal system. The first report (PIPS 2017) developed 35 standards against which the prevailing situation in Ireland’s penal system can be tracked and monitored.

The event will be chaired by Prof Aislinn O'Donnell, with an introduction by Seamus Taylor, Chair of IPRT. Speakers will include:

  • Inspector of Prisons, Patricia Gilheaney, who will deliver a keynote address.
  • Deirdre Malone, Executive Director and Michelle Martyn, Senior Research & Policy Manager, who will present IPRT's evaluation of progress in the penal system over the past 12 months.
  • Caron McCaffrey, Director of Staff and Corporate Services, Irish Prison Service and Vivian Geiran, Director of the Probation Service will respond to the report. 

The seminar event takes place at 10.30am (registration from 10am) on Friday 26th October at the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, 16-22 Green Street, Dublin 7. The event will be followed by a light lunch.

Please note that we have reached capacity for ‘Progressing Inside?’ and a wait list has been established. To be notified if a place becomes available, join the wait list here.

This 3-year flagship project is kindly supported by The Community Foundation for Ireland

CFI new logo 2018


IPRT Annual Review 2017-2018

Annual Review 2017-2018 CoverThe 2018 Annual General Meeting of IPRT took place on Thursday 20th September 2018 in the Camden Court Hotel. At the AGM a report on activities and developments during 2017 –2018 was presented to members and the IPRT 2017-2018 Annual Review was launched. The Annual Review reflects on our achievements and challenges over the past 12 months, and details progress towards the strategic goals we set in our 5 year Strategic Plan 2017-2021. Hard copies are available on request from Lorraine at

Following the AGM, IPRT members were joined by Frank Berry, director of the multi-award-winning film ‘Michael Inside’, and Niall Walsh, Manager of Pathways Centre, to discuss the process behind the creation of the film.

This was an exclusive member only event – if you would like to receive invitations to these member-only events in the future, you can sign up as a member here.


Save the Date: Prison Law Seminar #ratifyOPCAT 

OPCAT LOGO SQUARE WHITE BACKAs part of our on-going campaign to #ratifyOPCAT, IPRT will host a Prison Law Seminar on Monday 12th November at 4.30pm in the Ormond Meeting Rooms. This will be an opportunity for practitioners from the legal and NGO sector, and other stakeholders, to engage with the practical experiences of ratifying OPCAT implementing inspections.

Speakers will include Ms. Laura Paton, Lead Inspector of HM Inspectorate of Constabulary in Scotland, and previously the coordinator of the United Kingdom’s National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), and Mr. Michael Lynn, SC.

More details will follow soon. To register an interest in attending, email


Penal Reform Developments

A. Sixth Report of the Implementation Oversight Group

The Sixth Report of the Implementation Oversight Group of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy was published by the Department of Justice and Equality on 10th September 2018. While the report provided by the Implementation Oversight Group highlights that 236 milestones have now been deemed complete, it also highlights various major areas of concern in which there is a vital need for progress to be made. Read more here

B. Self-Harm in Irish Prisons 2017

The first Self-Harm in Irish Prisons 2017 report, from the SADA project (Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis) was published on 4th October. IPRT strongly welcomes the SADA project, the recording of contributory factors associated with episodes of self-harm, and the publication of the data.

C. Parole Board Annual Report 2017

The Parole Board Annual Report 2017 was published on 4th October. IPRT welcomes the restated commitment of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan TD to progress legislation to establish the Parole Board on a statutory basis, although we remain concerned about a number of the provisions within the Parole Bill 2016. You can read our position paper here

D. J-ARC Evaluation

The Joint Agency Response to Crime (‘J-ARC’) Evaluation Working Group released a desktop evaluation on 25th September. Initial indications are that the pilot programmes have helped to reduce both the frequency and severity of reoffending and, furthermore, have helped some participants to move completely away from crime.

E. Oberstown reports

Oberstown Children Detention Campus released its Annual Report 2016/2017 on 27th September, detailing its developments, achievements and challenges. Plans and operations going forward will be informed by the Oberstown Children Detention Campus Strategy 2017-2020. On 9th October 2018, the Health Information and Quality Authority (HIQA) published its report on an unannounced inspection of Oberstown undertaken in March 2018. You can read our analysis here


IPRT Resources: Parliamentary Questions

IPRT maintains a list of links to relevant Parliamentary Questions and Dáil debates recorded on the online resource and the Oireachtas website at: Click here.


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

Friend of IPRT June 2018

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. 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 2017

IPRT is also grateful for core funding from the following:


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

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



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