Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ebulletin #91

27th June 2017

  1. Introduction
  2. Save the Date: IPRT AGM 2017
  3. Prisons under the UN spotlight
  4. National Advocacy Strategy for Children with a Parent in Prison
  5. IPRT Submissions
  6. Closure of the Training Unit
  7. Progress at Oberstown
  8. Office of the Inspector of Prisons ‘Deaths in Custody’ reports
  9. National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020
  10. Featured Event: IASIO Jobs and Opportunities Expo, Mountjoy Prison
  11. Library: National and International Reports
  12. Become a Member or a Friend of IPRT

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Welcome to the second edition of the IPRT Ebulletin in 2017.

In May 2017, IPRT strongly welcomed the significant reduction in prison committals in 2016, and the clear statement by Tánaiste and then Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald T.D. that prison should be a sanction of “last resort” for less serious offences, on foot of the launch of the IPS Annual Report 2016. IPRT also welcomed commitments that were made that would result in the “improved health, well-being and rehabilitation of women offenders” that were included in the National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020. However, the closure of the Training Unit semi-open facility in May 2017 gives cause for concern. You can read more on these developments below.

Since the last edition in February, IPRT has been busy implementing our work programme for 2017. Work continues on our exciting new project Progress in the Penal System (PIPS). Aspirational standards and benchmarks for Ireland's penal system have been developed with the ambition of Ireland becoming an international model of best practice in penal policy. We plan to launch the report in October 2017.

We have made a number of key submissions (more of which below) over the past few months, and engaged in a number of other projects including the National Advocacy Strategy for Children with a Parent in Prison; engagement in advance of Ireland’s examination by the UN Committee against Torture (UNCAT) in July 2017; and our IHREC-funded research and campaign project ‘Abolishing Solitary Confinement in Prisons in Ireland’. Development continues around a new Spent Convictions campaign, with the launch planned to coincide with our 2017 AGM on Thursday 21st September!

John Lynch joined the IPRT team in May, and Leanne Digney in June – both are working on the IPRT internship programme, and are already an integral part of the IPRT team! We were also delighted to welcome back Pamela Drumgoole, who has returned to IPRT as Campaigns and Administration Officer until December 2017. Pamela can be reached at

As always, we welcome your feedback and comments. Contact Lorraine Whitty, Membership & Communications Officer:


Save the Date: IPRT AGM 2017

IPRT will hold its 2017 Annual General Meeting on Thursday 21st September 2017. Further details, including timings and venue, will be confirmed soon. To coincide with the AGM, IPRT will be launching a new Spent Convictions campaign. AGM attendance and participation is open to all current members, and members will receive their AGM mailings in August.

If you would like to become a member or renew your membership, you can do so here or by contacting Lorraine at: or 01-8741400.


Prisons Under the UN spotlight

UNCAT logoIreland’s second examination under the UN Convention against Torture will take place on 27th and 28th July 2017. There has been much progress since Ireland’s first examination in 2011, when the UN Committee Against Torture expressed “deep concern” at the levels of overcrowding in the prison system, called for urgent action to end slopping out, and said it was “gravely concerned” at the ongoing detention of children in St Patrick's Institution. However, IPRT will be bringing a number of serious concerns to the attention of the Committee in Geneva, including:

  • Numbers of prisoners held in isolation for prolonged periods;
  • Detention of people with serious mental health issues in prison;
  • Persistent overcrowding in a number of prisons;
  • Failure to achieve separation of remand and sentenced prisoners;
  • Lack of published prison inspection reports since autumn 2014;
  • Failure to ratify the important torture prevention tool, the OPCAT (Optional Protocol to the UNCAT) and establish a National Preventative Mechanism.

IPRT participated in the Department of Justice and Equality’s consultation process ahead of Ireland’s examination, and our submission to UNCAT will be available on our website in advance of the hearing. In addition, IPRT will also be running a public awareness campaign towards ratification of OPCAT. Watch this space!


National Advocacy Strategy for Children with a Parent in Prison

IPRT is part of a collaboration with lead partners University College Cork and the Children’s Rights Alliance, which has the overall aim of developing a National Advocacy Strategy for children with a parent in prison. IPRT’s Senior Research and Policy Manager Michelle Martyn delivered a video-link presentation on the impact of imprisonment on children and families in Ireland to the International Coalition for Children with Incarcerated Parents in New Zealand (March 2017), and also travelled to Naples in June 2017 for the annual COPE (Children of Prisoners Europe) Conference to discuss best practice ideas at a European level. UCC, the Children Rights Alliance and IPRT will hold an event launching this very important strategy in September 2017.

As part of this project, we are consulting with a number of groups, including those working directly with children and their families. A survey has been compiled for professionals and practitioners to complete. The aim of the survey is to identify gaps in service provision for children with a parent in prison. The overall objective of developing a National Advocacy Strategy is to recognise and improve outcomes for this cohort of children.

We would gratefully appreciate if you as a professional or practitioner could fill out the survey at the link below. Please feel free to circulate to other colleagues working in this sector:

If you are researcher working in this area, please fill out the following survey link:


IPRT Submissions

IPRT has been working on a number of important submissions to different processes during 2017.

In March, IPRT made a submission to the Department of Justice & Equality on a Value for Money and Policy Review of Prisoner Escort Services in the Criminal Justice System. Issues highlighted by IPRT include: the need to prioritise health-related escorts; issues around standard handcuffing of prisoners in cellular vehicles; vehicle conditions; and the current lack of inspections for prisoner escort services.

IPRT also submitted feedback to the Irish Prison Service on their forthcoming policy on Sentence Management of People serving Life Sentences. It is IPRT’s position that sentence management for those serving life should begin on committal, and that paths of progress through the prison system are established and commitments met.

IPRT provided feedback to leading mental health advocacy organisation, Mental Health Reform, on Mental Health and the Criminal Justice System in March 2017 as part of their forthcoming review of ‘A Vision for Change’.

In Feb and May 2017, IPRT provided feedback to the Department of Justice and Equality on proposed models of inspectorates towards the establishment of a National Preventative Mechanism, which is a critical oversight tool for the prevention of torture in all places of detention.

All submissions will be made available on the IPRT website following the publication of the relevant policies.

For more information on these submissions, contact Michelle at For recent published submissions, see:


Closure of the Training Unit

IPRT welcomes recent initiatives by the Irish Prison Service to better support rehabilitation of prisoners. In this context, IPRT was disappointed at the closure of the Training Unit semi-open facility in May 2017. In principle, IPRT welcomes proposals for provision of ‘super-enhanced’ or lower security level accommodation in Mountjoy West. However, IPRT strongly believes such provision should be in addition to and not as a replacement for semi-open or open prison facilities. It is IPRT’s position that until alternative semi-open or open facilities are made available in the Dublin area, it would have been preferable to make improvements to structure and management to keep the Training Unit open in the short-term. For more on IPRT’s position, see here.


Progress at Oberstown

OberstownOn Monday 29th May 2017, an event titled ‘Building the Future’ took place in the Smock Alley Theatre in Dublin to mark Oberstown Children Detention Campus’ first anniversary as a combined care, health and educational facility. This followed on from the signing of a Ministerial Order by Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, Katherine Zappone TD, on 30th March 2017 to end sentencing of children to adult prisons in Ireland, and the closure of St. Patrick’s Institution by Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald TD, on 7th April 2017. The ending of the imprisonment of children in Ireland and the development by Oberstown management and staff of a best practice model of care on Oberstown campus signals a change in how Ireland responds to offending by young people. Read more here.


Office of the Inspector of Prisons ‘Deaths in Custody’ reports

IoP logoA number of reports on investigations into deaths occurring in prison custody have recently been published (2016 reports) by the Office of the Inspector of Prisons. IPRT notes from these reports that there has been an increased demand for the use of compassionate release due to illness. This means that those in prison who are suffering from life-limiting medical issues can be released for end of life care in the community with their families. IPRT welcomes that the lengths of time for production of the reports into such investigations have reduced. The shorter time-frame means that the reporting mechanism is more compliant with the Principles set out in the Jordan case, such as promptness and the ability of public scrutiny. The principles of OPCAT also require a reasonable timeframe, of which these reports can be said to have been produced. Read more here.


National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020

National Strategy for Women and GirlsIPRT welcomed the publication of the government’s National Strategy for Women and Girls 2017-2020 on 3rd May 2017. The Strategy includes a number of key commitments in relation to women in the criminal justice system:

  • Overall commitment by Government Departments, State Agencies and partners to implement the Joint Probation Service Irish Prison Service Strategy: an Effective Response to Women Who Offend 2014-2016.
  • Commitment to implementation of recommendations made by the Strategic Review Group of Penal Policy in respect of women (sub-actions 15, 18, 21-25), including in relation to improving the standard of female accommodation in Limerick Prison.
  • Further commitments as set out by the Penal Policy Review Group include: conducting further research into the particular needs of female offenders and the reasons behind the growth in use of imprisonment for women; the use of gender-appropriate community sanctions; promoting greater contact between offenders and their children and family members; greater use of supported and structured temporary release; access to rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, and development of alternative sanctions to imprisonment.
  • Commitment by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service to open a step-down facility by the first quarter of 2018 for women leaving prison.


Featured Event: IASIO Jobs and Opportunities Expo, Mountjoy Prison

IASIO logoThe ‘IASIO Jobs and Opportunities Expo’ took place in Mountjoy Prison on 18th May 2017, the first time a jobs expo has taken place in an Irish prison. The event was organised by the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders (IASIO), the national community-based organisation for adult offenders in the criminal justice system with a specific focus on alternatives to both offending and re-imprisonment. IPRT’s Acting Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide and intern Pamela Drumgoole were delighted to attend.

Securing stable employment is a key factor which contributes to desistance from crime and aids rehabilitation and reintegration. More than 30 SMEs and other employers set up interview and information stands, and interviewed and assessed more than 40 prisoners who were selected due to having spent their time productively by engaging with in-prison services to acquire a skill or trade in order to make them more ‘job ready’ on release than when they began their sentence.

The expo was launched by the Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration, David Stanton, T.D. during a breakfast briefing hosted by Mountjoy Prison Governor Brian Murphy. Minister Stanton called on employers to play their part in offender reintegration and helping to make their communities safer. IBEC and the Small Firms Association were also represented at the event, aimed at encouraging employers not to impose blanket bans on employing ex-offenders and to consider this pool of talent.

Also, on Monday 15th May 2017, Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald T.D. launched ‘A New Way Forward’: Joint Strategy for Development of Social Enterprise in the Irish Criminal Justice Sector 2017-2019, also in Mountjoy Prison. This strategy aims to oversee and drive the development of ‘social enterprise’ initiatives as a way of increasing the employment rates of people with criminal convictions. Such strategies to improve resettlement of prisoners through providing employment opportunities are very positive. However, these must be met with adequate out-of-cell time for prisoners to access to training and education, and stronger spent convictions legislation.


Library: National and International Reports

Resources – Ireland

A. Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2016

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) released its Annual Report for 2016 on 15th May 2017. The number of total committals to prison decreased by 12.2% when compared with 2015. The overall daily average number of prisoners in custody in 2016 was 3,718 compared to 3,722 in 2015. However, the daily average number of female offenders in custody was 140, a 6.9% increase on the 2015 average of 131. Read more here.

B. Probation Service Annual Report

The Probation Service Annual Report for 2016 was published on 15th May 2017. Following on from the recommendation of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy (2014), the Probation Service introduced an integrated model of Community Service on a pilot basis in 2016. Integrated Community Service allows for up to one third of Community Service Order hours to be used to facilitate a participant's attendance at programmes and support services. Read more here.

C. Irish Prison Service and Probation Service Joint Social Enterprise Strategy 2017-2019 – ‘A New Way Forward’

The Probation Service, in conjunction with the Department of Justice and Equality and the Irish Prison Service, launched their strategy on social enterprise (SE) that aims to engage people with convictions in sustainable employment. The goal and mission of this strategy is to work with prisoners and social enterprises to create opportunities for sustainable employment for those with convictions. Read more here.

Resources: International Reports

A. Penal Reform International Global Prison Trends 2017 Report

The report analysed certain trends that have commonality across global penal institutions. It found some progressive advancements and positive trends but also found some trends that are a cause of concern, most notably the increase in female prisoners. It reports a 50 percent increase in female prisoners since 2010, referencing data from 2015 which shows that the female prison population is increasing at a faster rate than the male prison population. Read more here.

B. UK: 'Prisons and Probation Ombudsman’s learning lessons bulletin: self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners’

UK Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen has highlighted a “lack of concerted and sustained action” following a rise in the number of suicides among female prisoners. He says reforms proposed 10 years ago to prevent vulnerable women killing themselves had not been implemented. Publishing ‘PPO’s learning lessons bulletin: self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners’, he pointed out that lessons identified in this new review of cases had been highlighted previously by his office and by other inquiries, but had not been implemented. The publication identifies a number of important areas of learning in dealing with self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners, including: better assessment and management of risk; improving suicide and self-harm prevention procedures; addressing mental health issues; combating bullying, and ensuring timely emergency responses. Read more here.

C. Council of Europe 'SPACE I' Annual Penal Statistics in Europe for 2015

The Council of Europe have published their Report: SPACE I Annual Penal Statistics in Europe for 2015, containing a detailed breakdown of penological trends across Europe. 45 out of the 52 Prison Administrations of the 47 Member States of the Council of Europe answered the questionnaire. Read more on the report, and media coverage on it here.


Become a Member or a Friend of IPRT

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.

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?

Friends of IPRT

Become a Friend of IPRT and join a growing network of people who believe in a better, more fair and more humane penal system in Ireland.

By becoming a Friend of IPRT and making an annual contribution of €250 or more over a 3-year period, you are making a real, meaningful investment in the work that we do. Your pledge will help to secure our core work, ensuring that IPRT can and will continue to advocate for positive penal policy reform in Ireland. Become a Friend here in three simple, secure steps.

IPRT relies on donations from charitable trusts, individual donations and membership subscriptions to cover operational costs. Our CHY number is 11091.

We have also received funding from two donor-advised funds managed by the Community Foundation for Ireland, and we were one of the awardees for the inaugural Human Rights and Equality Grants Scheme of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission.

IPRT receives core funding from the following:

3 Core Funders logos

Our work is supported by

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



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