Irish Penal Reform Trust

IPRT responds to the Joint Committee on Public Petitions on the call for a Citizens Assembly on the Irish Justice system

15th May 2024

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) responded to the Joint Committee on Public Petitions on the call for a Citizens Assembly on the Irish Justice system; Policing, Crime and Rehabilitation.

On 8 February 2024, the Joint Committee on Public Petitions discussed a petition (No. 00033/21) entitled “Call for a Citizens Assembly on the Irish Justice System; Policing, Crime and Rehabilitation” from Mr. Cormac McKay. This petition relates to the request that the then-proposed citizens' assembly on drugs be expanded to encompass the entire justice system, policing, crime and rehabilitation in the Republic of Ireland. The petition was received by the Committee on 31 August 2021 and the views of the Department of Justice sought on 8 September 2021.

A response from the Department of Justice was received on the 26 January 2024. A short summary of what the Department said was that the area of drugs use is a very complex and wide-ranging issue and, in order to fully explore all relevant issues, it was not considered feasible to expand the subject matter of the Citizens’ Assembly on Drugs Use beyond that to the wider criminal justice system, policing, crime and rehabilitation. 

After this response was received, the Committee wrote to IPRT to get our views on the effectiveness or otherwise of the reform of the justice system. IPRT welcomes the request and responded to the Committee on 29 February 2024. On 9 May 2024, the Committee has indicated they will publish our letter. The request letter and our response are attached in the documents below. The copy of our response reads:

Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) would like to thank you for consulting with us on Petition No: P00033-21 from Mr Cormac McKay titled; “Call for a Citizens Assembly on the Irish Justice system; Policing, Crime and Rehabilitation”.


Established in 1994, IPRT is Ireland's principal independent non-governmental organisation working for systemic penal reform and change. Our vision is a just, humane Ireland where prison is used as a last resort. We advocate for a progressive criminal justice system that prioritises alternatives to  prison, upholds human rights, and champions reintegration. We do this through conducting  research, campaigning, and changing attitudes.


While we in IPRT are aware that the Citizens Assembly on Drugs Use has now completed its  deliberations, we would welcome a future Citizens Assembly to focus on the criminal justice system and its complexities.


IPRT recently marked the tenth anniversary of the Report on Penal Reform of 2013 by the Joint  Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality which attracted cross-party consensus to reduce the  prison population by taking measures to tackle overcrowding and put in place a more progressive  and humane system. Work to implement the five key recommendations of this 2013 report has been  haphazard, with progress made regarding its recommendation for parole but little else has been progressed. 

Furthermore, despite more recent commitments in the Final Report 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, and further detailed commitments in the Review of Policy Options for Prison and Penal Reform 2022-2024, implementation to date of such commitments has been slow. 

We are increasingly concerned at the record numbers of people in our prison system, with several prisons exceeding their official maximum capacity on a regular basis. The Chief Inspector of Prisons has highlighted how this is negatively impacting conditions with multiple people confined to a singleoccupancy cell, sleeping on mattresses wedged beside toilets. We also know it has led to prison  school closures due to prison staff shortages and even longer waiting lists for mental health and  addiction services. 


We in IPRT consider it is time to reimagine the criminal justice system and take a step back to evaluate how it currently operates and how it could be reformed to ensure that it is a more efficient, effective and humane system. This would ultimately result in fewer people in prison, more opportunities to prevent people coming into contact with the criminal justice system in the first place and safer communities.


Please do not hesitate to contact me if I can be of further assistance.


Yours sincerely,


Saoirse Brady

 

May 2024
SMTWTFS
 1234
567891011
12131415161718
19202122232425
262728293031 
April  

Our work is supported by

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

Subscribe

Legal

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.