Sinn Féin launched its election manifesto, ‘Giving Workers and Families a Break: A Manifesto for Change’, on Tuesday 28th January 2020. The manifesto can be accessed here.
Below, IPRT analyses relevant proposals under ‘Health, p.45, and 'Justice and Equality’ section, p.69.
Analysis of individual policy proposals:
(i) Mental Health
IPRT supports the Sinn Féin’s proposed commitment to implementing the recommendations of A Vision for Change in full. Improved services in the community would decrease the number of people with a mental illness coming into contact with the criminal justice system. We also welcome the proposed mental health posts that would cover all hospital emergency departments, Garda custody suites and prisons.
See PIPS 2019, Standard 13 – Mental Healthcare.
(ii) Drugs and Addiction
IPRT welcomes the proposed guiding principles of harm reduction and prevention in the development of drug policy, rather than solely a punitive, criminal justice approach. See IPRT’s submission on Ireland’s approach to possession of limited quantities of certain drugs. See also IPRT’s Alternatives to custody.
(iii) Prison Service Funding
IPRT cautiously supports a commitment to increased funding for the Irish Prison Service (IPS). However, additional funding needs to be ring-fenced for appropriate projects (e.g. increasing psychology services, improved governance structures, enhanced sentence management) and must not be utilised to expand prison capacity. Successive reports have underlined that prison building will not solve prison crowding, including the Thornton Hall review (2011); Oireachtas Joint Committee Report on Penal Reform (2013); Strategic Review of Penal Policy (2014); and the Oireachtas Joint Committee Report on Sentencing and Penal Reform (2018).
Moreover, 74% of sentenced committals in 2018 were for sentences of less than 12 months. Increased investment in less damaging non-custodial alternatives to prison, including community service orders and restorative justice strategies, is key to reducing crime and building safer communities.
(iv) Sentencing Guidelines
IPRT would welcome exploration of the proposed introduction of a Sentencing Council. Improved collation and publication of sentencing data is key to promoting greater transparency and public perceptions of consistency in sentencing. IPRT believes that a comprehensive review on how Ireland approaches sentencing and how that process might be appropriately reformed would be of both great public value and interest. See IPRT’s submission to the Law Reform Commission on Sentencing Guidelines.
(v) Garda Youth Diversion Projects
Sinn Féin demonstrate a commitment to acting on the evidence that intervention, prevention and diversion makes social and economic sense by proposing the expansion of Garda Youth Diversion Projects (GYDP). IPRT would further welcome a commitment to extending GYDP to young people aged up to 24. See IPRT’s report Turnaround Youth: Young Adults (18-24) in the Criminal Justice System. IPRT and the Criminal Bar Association recently hosted a seminar on developing youth justice, see here.
(vi) Sexual Violence
IPRT supports the proposal to increase funding to organisations supporting victims and survivors of domestic and sexual violence and provide legal advice and support to those reporting such crime. We also welcome the proposed commitment to increased funding for rape crisis centres. IPRT believes that victims’ rights can be met at the same time as meeting the rights of offenders. See IPRT’s submission on implementation of the EU Victims' Rights Directive.
(vii) Traveller Rights
IPRT welcomes the recognition of the Travelling Community’s unequal status in Irish society; particularly in terms of accommodation, education, and health – which are all linked to the disproportionate number of Travellers in Irish prisons. See IPRT’s Travellers in the Irish Prison System.
(viii) Disability Rights
IPRT supports the proposed commitment to Ratifying the Optional Protocol of the UN Convention on the Rights of People with Disabilities. See IPRT’s recent report Making Rights Real for People with Disabilities in Prison.
For IPRT's 'Smart Justice, Safer Communities' Policy Proposals 2016-2021, click here.
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.