Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #86

11th July 2016

  1. Introduction
  2. IPRT Statement: Our commitment to full transparency and accountability
  3. IPRT Team: Exits & Entrances
  4. New Publications from IPRT
  5. Penal Reform Updates
  6. Launch: Harm Reduction in Prisons
  7. Become a Member

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Welcome to the third edition of the IPRT Ebulletin in 2016. The first half of 2016 has proven to be a tumultuous year in politics both here and abroad, with the current minority government arrangement presenting both a challenge and an opportunity for penal reform. Although IPRT was disappointed that the Programme for Partnership Government made scant reference to penal reform issues as set out in our ten policy priorities for 2016-21 and 5 key commitments documents, there have been a number of positive developments since April 2016, including:

  • Youth Justice: announcement of a Bail Supervision Scheme for young offenders, which will commence on a pilot basis in 2016;
  • Independent Complaints: proposal by the Inspector of Prisons, which was accepted by the Tánaiste, that the Ombudsman's remit be extended to include prisoner complaints;
  • Accountability: restated commitment to Ireland's ratification of the OPCAT made by the Tánaiste at Ireland's 2nd examination under the Universal Periodic Review in Geneva;
  • Parole Reform: introduction of a Private Member's Bill, the Parole Bill 2016, which was not opposed by Government;
  • Human Rights: clear commitments included in the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan –Creating a Better Environment 2016 – 2018 to an ethos of human rights and equality.

All of these developments signify progress towards IPRT's objectives in the areas of: reducing the use of imprisonment; strengthening transparency and accountability in the penal system; and ensuring the protection of human rights in prison.

IPRT's advocacy is informed by engagement with all stakeholders, including prisoners. In 2016, IPRT has met with groups of life-sentenced prisoners in Mountjoy Prison, Midlands Prison and the Training Unit, and has visited the new Cork Prison. Further visits are planned to Cloverhill and Wheatfield Prisons this month, followed by a meeting with a prisoner group in Limerick Prison. IPRT has also been working with Datakind, a social change organisation, and the Irish Prison Service on an exciting project that seeks prisoners' input and opinion on how to better support family relationships during a period of imprisonment.

In other news, IPRT co-hosted a major Prison Litigation conference in association with the School of Law, Trinity College Dublin on 22nd April; we held a private members' event on restorative justice on 30th May; and on 23rd June, we launched a new report on monitoring infectious diseases in prison. More information on new and forthcoming publications from IPRT is included below.

Upcoming dates for your diaries include the IPRT Annual General Meeting on 22nd September, and the launch of a new report on the rights and needs of older people in prison on 30th September (tbc) to coincide with the International Day of Older Persons, which falls on 1st Oct. Full details will be sent out to all members next month ~ and we look forward to meeting you then.

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments:


IPRT Statement: Our commitment to full transparency and accountability

In light of recent revelations relating to the abuse of charitable funds and lack of governance in a high profile case currently in the media, IPRT would like to take this opportunity to state that we strive to apply the highest standards of governance in our work:

IPRT works very hard to ensure that all the funds we raise are applied most effectively and efficiently to achieve our mission. With a staff of just three, supported by an unpaid volunteer board and dedicated interns, we punch well above our weight by using advocacy strategies as leverage for systematic, and therefore longer-lasting, change.

If you would like any further information on our work, we would be delighted to oblige. Please email Deirdre at and we will respond within three working days.


IPRT Team: Exits & Entrances

There were a number of changes within the IPRT office team over May and June 2016.

At the end of May, we had a joint farewell for Kate O'Hara, employment-based PhD candidate with IPRT from 2013 to 2016, and Marie Therese Power, IPRT Development and Admin Executive since July 2014.

Kate submitted her PhD thesis examining the effectiveness of community service in April, and successfully passed her viva on 11th July. IPRT looks forward to the publication of Kate's research later this year. Dr Kate, as we now know her, starts in her new role as Senior Crime and Policing Analyst with An Garda Síochána this month. Marie Therese, who will begin the second year of her Masters studies in Public Policy in September, left IPRT on her very own Tour de France, departing by ferry with her bicycle in June. Both Marie Therese and Kate are greatly missed by IPRT staff, board, members and friends.

Following a recruitment process, we were delighted to welcome Lorraine Whitty to IPRT in the role of Membership and Administrative Officer. Lorraine has previously worked with a number of charities, on issues such as early years policy and international development issues in the media. Her most recent role was as Office & Administration Manager with Start Strong.

At the end of June, we said goodbye to interns Karl McGrath and Ciara Redmond, who had worked with IPRT since February and March, respectively. Karl has taken up a new role with the Peter McVerry Trust, and Ciara will be taking her final FE-1 exams in autumn. We also said goodbye to Órlaith Ní Mhadagáin, who worked with us throughout June as part of the UCD Sutherland School of Law legal placement module. All three were terrific additions to the IPRT team, true converts to penal reform - and we wish them all the very best of luck in the future!


New Publications from IPRT

IPRT's proposals for progressive reform of Irish penal policy are grounded in evidence and research. Here are the research reports that IPRT has published in recent months:

4d57b51f-2452-4d09-8f2b-f84eed2f4af1.jpgPrison Litigation Network: National Report on Ireland (April 2016)

A 60-page report on national systems of judicial and non-judicial mechanisms for the protection of the rights of prisoners, as part of the EU-funded Prison Litigation Network Project. Download the report here.   

30c37753-9b86-4273-9c24-c88866dbf3b4.jpgThe Practice of Pre-trial detention in Ireland (May 2016)

An 80-page report on the practice of pre-trial detention decision-making in Ireland, including a review of the procedures employed the stakeholders involved, namely, defence practitioners, judges, prosecutors. Produced as part of the EU-funded project: The Practice of Pre-trial Detention in Europe. Download the report here.  

061c3fa6-5058-4ec6-911a-9c61606b296a.jpgMonitoring of HIV, HCV, TB in Prison: National Report on Ireland (June 2016)

A 45-page report mapping policy, practices and monitoring mechanisms in Ireland, with particular reference to infections in prisons, produced as part of the EU-funded project Improving Prison Conditions by Strengthening Infectious Disease Monitoring. Download the report here.  

b94f9bfc-5681-47f8-8e12-bc850a0cbffa.jpgIPRT Briefing: Parole and Temporary Release of prisoners serving long sentences (June 2016)

A 3-page briefing outlining IPRT's recommendations for reform of the current parole system. Download the briefing here.

Forthcoming publications from IPRT, due to be published autumn/winter 2016, include: a new report on the rights and needs of older people in prison; the second phase of our Turnaround Youth project, a research study on the mental health needs of young people aged 18-24 in the criminal justice system; a position paper on the effectiveness of community sanctions as alternatives to short-term prison sentences; and a discussion paper on national torture prevention mechanisms.

If you would like a hard-copy of any of our published reports, please email Lorraine at:


Penal Reform Updates

Recent developments in the area of prisons and penal reform

(A) Spent Convictions Update

The Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act 2016 was commenced by the Minister for Justice and Equality on 29th April 2016. While welcoming its commencement, IPRT hopes for a review of the operation of the legislation in the not so distant future towards widening its reach, including extending the legislation to cover more than one offence (other than minor motoring/public order offences) and extending eligibility to 48 months' imprisonment. Read more here.

(B) Prisoner Complaints

On 8th June, An Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD published the Inspector of Prisons' report on the prisoner complaints system, Review, Evaluation and Analysis of the Operation of the present Irish Prison Service Prisoner Complaints Procedure. IPRT welcomed the publication of the report, along with the Tánaiste's stated commitment to improving the internal prison complaints system and to progressing proposals for an external mechanism for prisoner complaints, such as extension of the Ombudsman's remit - another key objective of IPRT. The review is available here.

(C) Parole Bill 2016

On 15th June 2016, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan TD introduced a draft Private Member's Bill, the Parole Bill 2016 before the Dáil. The main purpose of this Bill is to place the Parole Board on a statutory footing. IPRT has long called for comprehensive reform of the Parole Board by placing it on a statutory basis, fully independent of political control, and governed by clear and fair decision-making protocols. Read more here.

(D) Prison Visiting Committee ~ Annual Reports 2015

The 2015 annual reports of all 14 Prison Visiting Committees were published on Friday 24th June; the report on Cloverhill Prison is the first published report on this prison in some years, and raises a number of serious concerns relating to healthcare provision and prisoner safety. Concerns about healthcare provision feature in a number of other reports, including Midlands Prison, while staffing issues, overcrowding, and school closures are among issues raised in the Dóchas Centre report. Read more here.

(E) Prisons and Probation ~ Annual Reports 2015

The 2015 annual reports for the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service were published on 27th June 2016, along with the Irish Prison Service Three Year Strategic Plan –Creating a Better Environment 2016 – 2018 and a number of discrete strategy statements. On their publication, IPRT welcomed the clear commitments included in thenew Strategic Plan to human rights and equality, but warned that such commitments can only be met by a ‘whole of Government’ approach to offending and reoffending, along with improved public accountability through regular publication of criminal justice data and prison inspection reports. Read more here.

Stay up-to-date with penal reform news and developments by visiting our website, following IPRT on Twitter and liking the IPRT page on Facebook.


Report Launch: Harm Reduction in Prisons

New National Report on Ireland


On 23rd June, IPRT launched our latest report Improving Prison Conditions by Strengthening the Monitoring of HIV, HCV, TB and Harm Reduction. The report, written by Catherine MacNamara, Lorraine Varley and Patricia Mannix McNamara, maps the situation in Ireland and makes a series of recommendations to meet the challenges of infectious diseases and ensure respect for prisoners' human rights. 

Speakers at the event, which was very well attended by those working in the areas of prisons and public health, were:

  • Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly;
  • Mr Fergal Black, Director of Care and Rehabilitation, Irish Prison Service;
  • Dr. Joe Barry, Clinical Professor in Public Health Medicine, Trinity College Dublin;
  • Emmet Conroy, Red Cross Prison Programme; and
  • Catherine MacNamara, University of Limerick. 

The national report on Ireland forms part of an EU co-funded project, led by Harm Reduction International. The project aims to reduce ill-treatment of persons in detention and improve prison conditions through improved and standardised monitoring and inspection mechanisms on HIV, HCV and TB. For more information on the project, including the European report and monitoring tool, see:

72a97481-e5c3-4af2-b77a-396f95eb7fd6.jpgThis project is co-funded by the European Union under the Criminal Justice Programme.The contents of this publication are the sole responsibility of the project and can in no way be taken to reflect the views of the European Commission.


Become a Member

Would you like to become a member of IPRT?

Annual membership is just €10 for students, €40 for individuals, €80 for organisations/firms, and free to prisoners and their families.

We can’t promise you lots of free stuff, but by becoming a member of IPRT you will be expressing your support for urgent penal reform in Ireland. Why not consider becoming an IPRT member now?

IPRT receives core funding from the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust and:


Our work is supported by

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



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