End-of-year message and announcement from IPRT’s Executive Director
Dear members and supporters,
I am pleased to be writing IPRT’s final message to you in 2021.
After almost 13 years working with IPRT, I will be leaving my post on 8th February 2022 to take up a new opportunity. It has been a privilege to work alongside all of the staff and Board of IPRT throughout the years, and to have had the opportunity to be part of a dynamic and effective organisation that has consistently punched above its weight and achieved real and lasting change. The hard work, passion and commitment of the whole IPRT team, our Board, and the many champions and supporters of penal reform across the sector, both here and abroad, continue to inspire me every day. I look forward to watching where IPRT goes to next, because it is sure to be impressive!
When I leave my post on 8th February 2021, I will leave IPRT in the very capable hands of Molly Joyce, currently Deputy Director, who will take up the role of Acting Executive Director while recruitment is ongoing. The post of Executive Director will be advertised in the first week of January 2022.
Reflecting on my final full year as Executive Director, I am proud of all we have achieved together in 2021, despite the challenges we have continued to face and overcome. Progressive developments in 2021 that IPRT has been working towards in recent years, include:
- The commencement of the Parole Act 2019 and the establishment of a statutory Parole Board;
- Publication of an evidence-based progressive Youth Justice Strategy;
- Public consultation on the review of the Prison Rules 2007;
- Establishment of the High Level Task Force to consider the mental health and addiction challenges of people interacting with the criminal justice system;
- Passage of the Criminal Justice (Rehabilitative Periods) Bill 2018 through the Seanad; and more.
At the same time, 2021 has not been the year we hoped it would be at this time last year. For people in prison and their families and friends outside, the challenges of 2020 have been compounded in 2021.
Despite recent progress, there is still so much more that needs to be done.
As well as our persistent advocacy, in early 2022, IPRT will: publish the fifth edition of our annual project benchmarking reform and human rights in the Irish penal system (PIPS); publish vital research on race and ethnicity in the Irish penal system; undertake a scoping study on access to rights for people detained in forensic mental health settings; and commence an All-Island project with Northern Ireland partners NIACRO to facilitate coordinated approaches across policy and practices towards prevention of offending and reoffending. We will be continuing work on projects including Action for Children and Families of Prisoners and the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform.
Huge thanks to my IPRT team colleagues – Molly, Sarahjane, Lorraine, and Pamela, along with our volunteers from across 2021, Shauna, Agnel, Sean, Declan, Ella, Danielle, Eamonn, Ellen and Hannah – whose dedication to penal reform was unwavering throughout 2021. Thank you all.
Thanks to the many organisations who shared their expertise with IPRT throughout the year, including: Citywide, Focus Ireland, Travellers in Prison Initiative, National Traveller Women's Forum, Release, PACE, Women in Prison (UK) and NIACRO.
Thanks to our members, donors and funders who continued to support our work, including: Pobal, Department of Justice, Community Foundation for Ireland, Mercy Congregation, Katharine Howard Foundation, St Stephen's Green Trust, and the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.
Finally, I would like to thank the men and women in prison and the families outside, who have continued to find time to inform and engage with IPRT on the issues and experiences of prison throughout 2021. However difficult we have found the past 12 months, it has been so much harder for people in prison and their loved ones outside. As a person connected to prison said to me in early 2021: "Jail is tougher now." It has stayed with me since.
On behalf of the IPRT team, I wish you all a happy and peaceful festive season, and very best wishes for the New Year.
Fíona Ní Chinnéide