Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #78

19th March 2015

  1. Introduction
  2. Spent Convictions - update
  3. Invitations to Tender
  4. Recent Developments
  5. Turnaround Youth Project Launch
  6. Join IPRT and support our work!

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Dear Members and Friends,In February 2015, the Inspector of Prisons announced a Review of the Irish Prison Service, which is being conducted in conjunction with internationally-renowned prisons expert Prof Andrew Coyle. The Office of the Inspector of Prisons is now inviting interested parties to make submissions on the Review, with a closing date for receipt of submissions of 9th April 2015. Full details here.

In other news, this edition of the ebulletin includes: an update on the (slow) progress of the Spent Convictions Bill; details of our Invitations to Tender for two new IPRT research projects; and a 'save the date' diary note for the launch of our upcoming 'Turnaround Youth' Project Report. You can also find out about recent developments in penal reform; and how you can support IPRT by becoming a member (if you haven't already!)

Behind the scenes, IPRT is also working on a number different research projects, focusing on: the use of pre-trial detention; prison litigation; the rights and needs of LGBT prisoners; the rights and needs of older prisoners; young adults in the criminal justice system; and more. All this is taking place alongside submissions to different national and international processes, including children's rights monitoring processes - and not forgetting the major piece of research being conducted by IPRT's employment-based PhD candidate, Kate O'Hara: "Community service orders versus short custodial sentences: Examining risk, recidivism and need."

At the end of January, IPRT said goodbye (but not farewell!) to Iseult Ní Choitir, who completed her five months' internship with us. Iseult contributed enormously to IPRT's work, in particular in the areas of children's rights in the youth justice system, and more effective responses to offenders with substance misuse issues. We welcomed Ellen Whelan (author of this ebulletin) and David Fitzpatrick to IPRT in February 2015; both Ellen and David will be working with us until summer 2015 and have already hit the ground running.As always, we welcome your feedback and comments:


Spent Convictions - update

IPRT has long campaigned for a scheme in Ireland whereby certain convictions can become spent following a rehabilitative period. In January 2015, IPRT conducted a short survey on the impact of having a criminal record in Ireland. The survey can be viewed here.

Survey findings:

Profile of respondents: Of those who responded, the vast majority of convictions received were for less serious offences. Criminal damage, motoring offences, possession of small amounts of cannabis, and shoplifting were the most frequent offences.

Lengths of time: It has been more than 10 years since 66% of the respondents have been convicted of an offence. Three of the respondents had not received a further conviction in 35 years, 30 years and 26 years respectively – yet their convictions continue to affect their lives every single day. 

Impact of convictions:

  • 67% said that Employment was the area that having a conviction has the most negative impact, followed by Education and Travel.
  • Having a conviction presents a major issue for Getting a job (67%) – just one person said it was not an issue at all. It is also an issue for Going for a promotion (33%) – often because international travel or training abroad is required.
  • Having a criminal record is also a major issue for Travel (emigration) (62%); Volunteering (38%); and accessing Education (28.5%), according the respondents. It is also an issue for accessing Insurance (33%) and Travel (holidays) (48%).

IPRT presented the survey findings, along with statements by more than 20 individuals affected, at an Oireachtas seminar, which took place 4th Feb 2015.  

Oireachtas Seminar

The eighth seminar for the All Party Oireachtas Penal Reform Group of TDs and Senators, which took place 4th Feb 2015, focussed on the urgent need to pass the Spent Convictions Bill, which has been delayed since March 2013. The seminar, hosted and chaired by Senator Ivana Bacik, heard from IPRT's Deirdre Malone; Christopher Stacey, CEO of Unlock in the UK; and a former prisoner who now works in education of prisoners and former prisoners. The seminar was well attended and there was general agreement that the passing of this Bill is a matter of urgency, as the effects of the lack of legislation in Ireland are extremely onerous. Read more about the seminar here.


In response to a question by Senator Ivana Bacik on the 3rd of March, Minister for Justice and Equality Frances Fitzgerald stated that she hoped the Bill would be enacted before the summer. This is welcome news. However, IPRT is concerned at suggestions that the Bill will be amended so that the rehabilitation period for all minor offences will be seven years; IPRT recommends a proportionate rehabilitation period for convictions, and for there to be no limit to the number of eligible convictions which can become spent. Read the Minister's response here.

IPRT presented the survey findings, along with statements by more than 20 individuals affected, at an Oireachtas seminar, which took place 4th Feb 2015.  


Invitations to Tender


Young adults in the Criminal Justice System

IPRT has secured funding from the Ireland Funds to commission high quality empirical research identifying more effective responses to young people aged 18-21 with mental health problems at key points of intervention in the criminal justice system. This work builds upon Phase I of the Turnaround Youth project, which advocates for the differential treatment of young adults within the criminal justice system.

IPRT now invites tenders to deliver a research paper which examines current mental health provision for young people in contact with the criminal justice system, describes international best practice, and formulates evidence-based policy recommendations. 

Full details available here.

Strengthening Infectious Disease Monitoring

IPRT also invites tenders for a research project on 'Improving Prison Conditions by Strengthening Infectious Disease Monitoring.' The project is funded by the European Commission and led by Harm Reduction International and aims to reduce ill-treatment of persons in detention and improve prison conditions through improved and standardised monitoring and inspection mechanisms on infectious diseases meeting IPRT's dual strategic aims of promoting human rights within prisons and strengthening monitoring systems.

Full details available here.

Tenders should be submitted by email to by noon on Friday 27th March 2015.


Recent Developments

a. HIQA Report on Oberstown Detention School

Following inspections in October and November of last year, HIQA recently published a report which found that Oberstown only met one standard of ten assessed. Highlighted issues include the use of single separation due to staffing shortages and significant risks were identified in the areas of Care of Young People, Health and Staffing and Management. Access the full report here.

b. Census of Prison Population, Cell Occupancy and In Cell Sanitation, Jan 2015

As of Jan 2015, the prison population stood at 3,661. Of these, 42% were required to share a cell with one or more individuals, and 304 prisoners were still required to slop out. Click to read the Census report.

c. Census of Restricted Regime Prisoners, Oct 2014

As of Oct 2014, 263 prisoners were on a restricted regime, and the number of prisoners on 22/23 hour lock up was 54. The full Census is available here.

d. Announcement of Review of the Irish Prison Service
Judge Michael Reilly, Inspector of Prisons, has announced that he will undertake a wide-ranging review of the culture and operation of the Irish Prison Service along with Professor Andrew Coyle, Emeritus Professor of Prison Studies from the University of London. The review is expected to be completed by September 2015. IPRT welcomes this review but underlines the continuing need for stronger accountability mechanisms in the Irish prison system. Read the Inspector of Prisons announcement here.

e. High Court Decision on Restricted Regimes

Recently a decision of the High Court found that 22 or 23 hour lock up amounts to solitary confinement and that this can cause significant psychological harm to prisoners. It was found that such regimes should only be used in exceptional circumstances and for a limited amount of time and that there should be intensive reviews of such regimes to end them as early as possible. IPRT agrees with the High Court's finding that 22-23 hour lock up regimes being imposed for almost a year amounts to a "clear sustained violation" of a prisoner's right to bodily and psychological integrity. Read more here.


IPRT Report Launch: Turnaround Youth

c340eb91-2842-43cc-bb6f-498ff838cc45.jpgIn May, IPRT will be inviting our members and friends to join us for the official launch of our Turnaround Youth Project Report.

This report, which has involved extensive research, and includes consultation across different stakeholders, presents the case for the differential treatment of 18-25 year olds who come in contact with the criminal justice system, grounded in emerging evidence and best practice.

The event will take place at the beginning of May, with further details to be announced. Please contact Marie-Therese at if you are interested in attending this event or if you would like any other information on the project. We hope to see you there!

IPRT would like to thank the Ireland Funds for their kind support of the research phase of this project.


~ We need YOU ~

IPRT needs your help to continue our work

At IPRT we truly appreciate the support of all our friends and members. Without your support our work simply would not be possible.

If you value the contribution IPRT has made over recent years, and believe that our work towards a more fair, just penal policy in Ireland should continue, please show your support by becoming a member, renewing your membership or making a donation.

You can find out more about what we have achieved and how we have achieved it here.

There are many other ways that you can become involved in the movement for progressive penal reform in Ireland. Find out here.

Our work is supported by

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



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