Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #111

15th November 2021

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IPRT Ebulletin #111

Dear members and supporters,

I am pleased to be writing to you to share updates on the progress and successes of IPRT’s work, as well as some important sector updates.

We are now over 20 months into the pandemic, and are continuing to hear from IPRT members in prison that the ongoing restrictions have been increasingly tough to endure. Access to rehabilitative services and regimes in prison is not yet fully restored, despite the high uptake in vaccinations. Family members remain in constant contact, updating us on the immense impact of restrictions on family contact and physical visits, especially for children. Advocating for safe and proportionate unwinding in this area remains a core part of our work.

You might have spotted coverage in the news this morning of an important new report by the Mental Health Commission on ‘Access to Mental Health Services for People in the Criminal Justice System’. The report, which makes for stark reading, has just been published and makes a clear call for action by Government. We issued a response this morning and will continue analysing the report today.
Following another period of policy submissions and events, the IPRT team is busy finalising our Access to Rights and Justice project for launch in early 2022, preparing for the return of key legislation to the Oireachtas, doing preparatory work before kicking off a cross-border justice project in January 2022, and a project on the sentencing of women. You can look forward to updates in these areas from us soon!

As always, feel free to get in touch with any feedback or comments on our work. The best way to get real-time updates on our work is to join us on social media.

All the best,
Pamela
Communications Officer


Invitation to Tender: Access to rights for people detained in secure forensic mental health facilities in Ireland

Despite the recognised interconnections between imprisonment, mental illness, and psychiatric detention, there has been little examination of how the human rights of prisoners/patients are being met before, during and after a period in secure forensic mental health facilities.

IPRT is seeking to address this gap by commissioning a scoping study, made possible through the support of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (IHREC), to identify the applicable rights frameworks and sectoral duties and establish whether further research and advocacy is needed in this area. It is envisaged that the study will take the form of a rapid review, based on desk-top research and interviews with a small number of stakeholders.

The closing date for submission of tenders is 12 noon on 26th November 2021.

For more information – including requirements, project deliverables and how tenders will be assessed – visit our website.

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Recruitment for the post of Inspector of Prisons (Chief Inspector) 

Due to the forthcoming retirement of the Inspector of Prisons (Chief Inspector), the Public Appointments Service commenced a recruitment process for the post of Inspector of Prisons (Chief Inspector) on 29 October 2021 with a closing date for applications of 18 November 2021, which leaves only a few days for those interested to apply. It is anticipated that the Chief Inspector will play a future role as NPM for the justice sector, linked with ratification of the OPCAT – a key campaigning issue for IPRT over the last decade.

Relevant information regarding the post and details on how to apply are available on publicjobs.ie. This is a vital oversight role – please share with relevant people in your networks!

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Round-up: Prison Law Seminar: Sentencing

IPRT held our second Prison Law Seminar of 2021 on Developing Sentencing Guidelines for Ireland: The Principles and Purposes of Sentencing on Thursday 21st October 2021 (via Zoom), in association with our colleagues in the Irish Criminal Bar Association (ICBA).

We were delighted to welcome The Hon. Ms. Justice Iseult O’Malley, Chair of the Sentencing Guidelines and Information Committee, to provide the keynote speech. Ms Justice O’Malley provided an update on the Committee’s work to date, and spoke about the importance of collecting and analysing data about sentencing in Ireland as a first step in the development of sentencing guidelines. We also heard from a number of other distinguished guests during the event, who shared insights from Ireland, Scotland and the U.S.

If you couldn’t join us for the launch, you can watch a recording of the event on YouTubeMore information on the event is available on our website.

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Success for penal reform during UN Universal Periodic Review (UPR)

Ireland’s third review under the UN UPR – by over 100 other States – took place last Wednesday (10th Nov) afternoon.

IPRT engaged extensively with the UPR process, including making our own submission, feeding into a joint submission and submitting to the State Report. We were chosen to present to the recommending States at the UPR pre-sessions too.

On Wednesday, Ireland received over 20 recommendations on ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT). This was a central ask in IPRT’s engagements with the UPR process. We are now looking to the action from the State on implementing this recommendation.

States also recommended that Ireland: ensure mentally ill individuals in prison have access to psychiatric care; bring conditions in line with the Nelson Mandela Rules; reduce overcrowding; consider applying more non-custodial measures; and ensure that solitary confinement remains a measure of last resort, for the shortest period possible, and is never applied to minors.

The draft report on Ireland was disseminated on Friday afternoon. We compiled a summary of the recommendations here.

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Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community

IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide appeared before the Joint Committee on Key Issues affecting the Traveller Community on Thursday 21st October to discuss Travellers’ experiences in prison in Ireland. We highlighted three urgent recommendations to the Committee, namely: ethnic equality monitoring should be carried out across the justice system, with anonymised information made public; the revised Prison Rules should include an explicit statement of commitment to eliminate discrimination; and the new internal prisoner complaints mechanism must be introduced before the end of 2021.

IPRT joined Anne Costello (Travellers in Prison Initiative), Maria Joyce (National Traveller Women’s Forum) and Barry Owens (IASIO) during the first half of the session. Representatives from the Irish Prison Service, Probation Service and the City of Dublin ETB were heard in the second half of the session.

For a summary of our recommendations to the Committee, as well as a link to our full Opening Statement, click here.

A video of the Committee meeting is available online here, with IPRT appearing from 00:46:23. Questions from Committee members commence at 01:00:40. The second half of the Committee session commences at 1:54:25.

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IPRT AGM and Annual Review 2020-2021

The 2021 Annual General Meeting of IPRT took place virtually on Wednesday 22nd September 2021. It was a great opportunity to engage with so many of you – our members – and hear your feedback and recommendations for our work. Thank you!

At the AGM, a report on activities and developments during 2020–2021 was presented by Chairperson Seamus Taylor and Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide. Treasurer Kevin Gregory gave a financial report for the year ended 31st December 2020.

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For more information on IPRT activities and developments during the year, read the IPRT Annual Review 2020 - 2021.

We are grateful to our funders, donors, members and Friends for supporting our work for another year.

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New IPRT Solicitor Panel

IPRT has established a new ‘Solicitor Panel’, which aims to bring together solicitors working in the areas relating to prison litigation and criminal defence approximately 4 times a year. These meetings offer IPRT an opportunity to hear directly from solicitors who are regularly engaging with the courts and prisons, with a view to hearing about what is happening. The first meeting of the Panel took place on 23rd September 2021. See more information about the meeting, membership of the panel, and how you can express an interest in joining here.

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Sector opportunities

Employment
  • Irish Prison Service Catering
    The Irish Prison Service is seeking a Social Enterprise to run the catering services in the Irish Prison Service HQ, Longford that will train and/or employ people with convictions. We welcome this leadership by the state in supporting opportunities for people with convictions histories – we hope to see similar initiatives into the future!
  • Oberstown (various)
    Oberstown is recruiting for a number of roles, including a Chaplain.
Research and events
  • Pavee Point research request
    Our colleagues in Pavee Point are supporting research on how Travellers feel about the Gardaí and the courts in Ireland. They are looking for Travellers to share their views to inform the research. Find out more here.
  • Mediation within a Prison Setting
    The ACJRD Restorative Justice Working Group will host this online seminar on the evolution of Peer Mediation in Castlerea Prison. The outcomes of this mediation programme have included a cultural change amongst the prison staff and the prisoner population. Register here.

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IPRT in the News

This edition of the Ebulletin has been jam-packed with updates, so we will leave you with just two key items of news. We might be biased, but these two are well worth reading/listening to.

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Want to join a group of like-minded people? Become a member of IPRT!

If you value the contribution IPRT has made over recent years – or during COVID-19 in particular – please show your support by becoming a member or making a donation.

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IPRT relies on donations from charitable trusts, individual donations and membership subscriptions to cover operational costs. We have also received funding from donor-advised funds and project funds managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland and project funding from the Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

IPRT receives core funding from: 


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

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

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