9th June 2015
President Michael D Higgins, who has been a patron of the IPRT since before his election as President, made his first visit to the Dóchas female prison since his appointment to the presidency this week. As a patron of the IPRT, President Higgins is committed to advocating for prisoners’ rights, and championing the work of the IPRT in penal reform.
On his visit to the Dóchas centre, President Higgins awarded a number of female prisoners with bronze Gaisce awards. Gaisce is a presidential award, which is earned by those who have completed some aspect of personal development, including community development or the improvement of a personal skill.
President Higgins, as a patron of the IPRT is committed to advocating for the rights of prisoners, and promoting penal reform. In his speech to the female prisoners of Dóchas, he expressed sympathy for the circumstances of many prisoners, specifically addressing the isolation and alienation felt by many prisoners in confinement, as a result of separation from family and friends. He then went on to address the importance of hope to life in prison, stating that it is important in the progression into life after prison, and prisoners’ own personal development.
President Higgins acknowledged that prisoners are an important group of citizens, and that they are a group which he hopes to involve in his presidency. President Higgins argued that the opinions and feelings of prisoners should be acknowledged when it comes to the design and administration of the prison service. President Higgins also met with the United Voices Prisoners’ Council, which creates a platform for prisoner views to be heard. He argued that organisations such as the United Voices Prisoners’ Council are vital in the development of prisoners to become “better citizens”, by granting respect to prisoners, and fostering personal and group responsibility.
President Higgins also briefly praised recent improvements in the prison service, specifically the reduction in overcrowding.
For further information on President Higgins' visit to the Dóchas centre, please see The Journal.