Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #120

21st December 2023

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An end-of-year message from IPRT 

Dear members and supporters,  

As we approach the end of another impactful year at IPRT, I want to thank you for supporting our work on penal reform to build a fairer, more compassionate criminal justice system.  

From the successes that we have reported in each of our quarterly eBulletins this year, to the thoughtful discussions at our AGM and events, your support has been core to our work. The steadfast commitment of our small but dedicated team has remained constant. We’ve maintained high productivity, impact, and a strong public profile despite transitions and reduced staff capacity in our team at some points during the year. 

With many progressive penal policies in place and commitments made, there is a growing momentum for positive systematic change. While we acknowledge the State’s progressive approach on paper, we emphasise the importance of translating these commitments into reality. Many challenges persist across the penal system. The prison population is reaching historic highs, creating knock-on impacts for rehabilitative services and creating barriers for children and families to visit their loved ones in prison. The priority must be to reduce the number of people being sent to prison in the first place and to expand the use of alternatives to imprisonment. 

IPRT will continue to fearlessly advocate to ensure these commitments are fulfilled and rights are upheld.  

On behalf of the IPRT team, we wish all of our supporters a peaceful festive break and a happy New Year. 

Saoirse Brady

IPRT Executive Director

A look back on 2023

Click here to view the Year in Review video.

A round-up of the last quarter 

Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) Conference 

On 6 December 2023, IPRT contributed to a high-level international conference hosted by the Office of Inspector of Prisons (OIP) titled The Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture: Developing a Criminal Justice National Preventive Mechanism in Ireland. The ratification of OPCAT, represents a historic opportunity to strengthen the culture of human rights within Irish detention facilities and put in place safeguards to ensure that some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society are protected.   

IPRT Executive Director, Saoirse Brady, spoke at the event. IPRT Policy and Research Coordinator, Pamela Drumgoole, also attended and participated in the event workshops. 

Image credit: Office of Inspector of Prisons 

All-Party Oireachtas Group Marked Ten Years Since Landmark Penal Reform Report 

In October, politicians marked the ten-year anniversary of the publication of the Report on Penal Reform of 2013 by the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality at an event in Leinster House.  

The event by the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform, co-chaired by Labour Deputy Ivana Bacik and Fine Gael Deputy Alan Farrell, and supported by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) invited legislators to reflect on the implementation of the recommendations of the report as well as areas of progress or regress in the penal landscape.   

[Image 1, panel L-R: Prof. Mary Rogan, Saoirse Brady, Prof. Ian O’Donnell, Deputy Alan Farrell, Deputy Ivana Bacik.

Image 2, L-R: Saoirse Brady, Deputy Alan Farrell, Prof. Mary Rogan, Deputy Ivana Bacik, Deputy Aodhán Ó’Ríordáin, Deputy Violent-Anne Wynne] 

IPRT responds to criminal justice bodies' reports and plans   

Children of people in prison recognised in new Young Ireland National Policy Framework 

IPRT was delighted to be at the launch of the Young Ireland National Policy Framework for Children and Young People 2023-2028, a framework that includes children impacted by parental imprisonment.  The report includes specific actions for the Department of Justice, the Irish Prison Service, and the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth (DCEDIY) to improve the lives of this marginalised cohort, something IPRT has been long calling for.   

New IPRT Board member 

For Trustees Week, we marked how grateful we are for the efforts that each member of IPRT's Board of Directors puts in to govern and oversee IPRT's strategy. While we were sad to say goodbye to two longstanding Board members at our AGM – Kevin Gregory and Prof. Aislinn O’Donnell - we are delighted to welcome David O'Riordan to our Board of Directors. For more info on our Board, see our website.

[Top L-R: Dr Cormac Behan, Dr Seamus Taylor, Dr Lisa Cuthbert. Bottom L-R: Ashling Golden, Derval McDonagh, Noel Moloney.] 

IPRT in the news

Image credit: Noteworthy 

Irish Prison Service Bill 2023 – report 

The Joint Committee on Justice Report on Pre-Legislative Scrutiny of the General Scheme of the Irish Prison Service Bill 2023 has been published and includes some strong recommendations that were influenced by our submission and the contributions we presented to the committee. Read the Justice Committee’s on the Bill on the Oireachtas website. You can take a look back at IPRT’s presentation to the Committee on the Bill on our YouTube or read IPRT’s submission on our website

National Families Connections Officer 

We are delighted to see the National Families Connections Officer role now advertised with the Irish Prison Service. IPRT has advocated for this position to be created and has huge potential to support the children and families of people in prison. We look forward to working with them in the future. The closing time and date for applications is 3pm, Thursday, 21 December 2023. For further information about applying for the role, visit the IPS website

Investigations Recommendation Monitoring – Deaths in Custody 

The Office of Inspector of Prisons (OIP) has developed a Recommendations Database for Death in Custody Investigations. This site sits alongside the OIP’s already-established Recommendation Database for Inspections. This is great news from OPI and the Irish Prison Service. This increased transparency will strengthen accountability. The development of a database of recommendations relating to deaths in custody was identified in the IPRT report Progress in the Penal System (PIPS): A Framework for Penal Reform (2022) in Standard 25 as a key action to implement in 2023.  

News in the sector 

Thank you!

[IPRT team L-R: Michelle Byrne, Helen Kehoe (on screen), Saoirse Brady, Pamela Drumgoole, Ashling Tobin] 

Thank you for your continued support this year. None of our work would have been possible without our supporters. Whether you have supported us financially, shared our messages online, given us feedback on our work, or cheered us on from afar, our year would not have been the same without you. 

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.  

The IPRT office closes on Friday 22 December 2023 and will re-open at 9am on Tuesday 2 January 2024. You can email us at and we will respond on our return. 

Add your voice - become a Friend or Member  

IPRT relies on a network of committed supporters who share our vision for change. By becoming a Friend or Member of IPRT, you add your voice to our campaign for a more humane and equitable penal system.  

To find out more about supporting our work, please visit our Friends or Membership pages.  

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:  


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



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