27th February 2018
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Welcome to the first edition of the IPRT E-bulletin in 2018!
It has been a busy year so far, most notably with the launch of ‘Behind the Door’: Solitary Confinement in the Irish Penal System – a research report and awareness campaign, on 2 February in the Hilton Kilmainham. We were proud to welcome the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Juan Méndez as our keynote speaker, and the event generated significant attendance and media interest. Details on the project and the launch are below.
The #ratifyOPCAT Campaign and ‘Working with Conviction’ Campaigns are continuing, and work for the second year of the ‘Progress in the Penal System’ (PIPS) 2018 project is well underway.
IPRT was invited to brief the Joint Committee on Education and Skills to discuss 'Education Inequality and Disadvantage' on 6 February, which also generated significant media interest, and has also made submissions to the Law Reform Commission and to the Probation Service Strategic Plan 2018-2020.
In addition, IPRT is working on an exciting new project, ‘Breaking the Care to Prison Pipeline’.
At the end of January, IPRT said goodbye to interns Denise Roche and Emily Ryan who had finished their internships and made a terrific contribution to the IPRT team during their time here. New interns Anna Flynn, Anna Devereux, and Niamh Wade (NUIM placement) commenced in February, and have already made a great contribution, and we look forward to working with them over the coming months.
I thank you again for your ongoing support for IPRT, and look forward to keeping you updated on our projects and progress during the upcoming year.
As always, we welcome your feedback and comments. Contact Lorraine Whitty, Membership and Administration Officer: firstname.lastname@example.org
IPRT launched a major evidence-based research and awareness campaign on the use of solitary confinement and restricted regimes in Ireland in the Hilton Kilmainham on 2 February 2018. Funded by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, the report’s authors are Dr Agnieszka Martynowicz and Dr Linda Moore.
We were proud to welcome the former UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Professor Juan Méndez as our keynote speaker, to launch our report, and the event was chaired by Professor Mary Rogan, with contributions from: Dr Agnieszka Martynowicz and Dr Linda Moore, authors of the research; Professor Barry Goldson; University of Liverpool; Michael O’Neill, Head of Legal Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; Martin Smyth, Director of Operations, Irish Prison Service; Clare Daly, T.D.; and Professor Ian O’Donnell, UCD.
This report contains 25 key recommendations centring on the use of solitary confinement and restricted regimes in Ireland. Our goal is ambitious but achievable – the abolition of solitary confinement in Ireland in the short term and the gradual elimination of the use of restricted regimes with the ultimate target of 12 hours out-of-cell time daily for all prisoners across the prison estate, and at the event, we also launched an #AbolishSolitary animation detailing the use of the solitary confinement in Ireland.
The event had a full house, and also extensive media coverage, indicating a high level of interest in the topic and in the campaign. More details on the report including the Executive Summary, event, media coverage and the campaign, can be found here.
IPRT welcomed the invitation by the Joint Committee on Education and Skills to make a brief written submission on education inequality and disadvantage. The submission is available here. Other contributors at the meeting on 6 February 2018 were: Dr. Katriona O'Sullivan, Maynooth University; Dr. John Bissett, Canal Communities Local Drugs & Alcohol Task Force; representatives from Foróige; an Cosán; Irish Rural Link; and officials from Department of Education & Skills and Department of Children & Youth Affairs.
While our area of expertise lies primarily in penal policy IPRT views educational disadvantage and inequality as one symptom of wider social exclusion in society. Social exclusion and social injustice are intrinsically linked to penal policy. Deirdre Malone is quoted in an article for the Irish Times on 6 February - although education can be “transformative”, Ms Malone said, funding for prison-based education has been cut in recent years; staffing shortages have also led to a reduction in school hours, while the latest figures indicate that only 46 per cent of inmates took part in education activities in prison.
A transcript of IPRT's appearance before the Committee is available here, and for more on our meeting with the Committee, see here.
IPRT gratefully received funding from the Community Foundation for Ireland’s Horizon Grant scheme to conduct research into the connections between the care and criminal justice systems, examining ways in which we can and must do better. After a tendering process, Dr. Nicola Carr and Dr. Paula Mayock will conduct the research, and EPIC (Empowering People in Care) will be our project partner. Planning has commenced for this project, and IPRT is pleased to invite submissions from interested parties and those affected by the issues, here, before 16 March 2018.
Since our Oireachtas Seminar on 13 December 2017 calling on the Government to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT), which is Standard 24 of our PIPS report, IPRT has continued to campaign on this issue.
Ireland signed the Protocol in 2007 and has yet to ratify it. Ratification would ensure that comprehensive inspection mechanisms are in place anywhere where people are deprived of their liberty in Ireland. These mechanisms would play an important preventative role in curtailing torture, cruel inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Our campaign micro-site (opcat-ireland.com) holds all of the relevant information about OPCAT and about our campaign. We encourage you to visit the site and sign our petition calling on the Irish Government to ratify OPCAT.
If you have any questions or would like to get involved in the campaign, please contact Campaigns@iprt.ie
IPRT continues to campaign on the issue of employment for people with convictions. We have distributed our information sheets and poster (to promote awareness of the April 2016, Criminal Justice (Spent Convictions and Certain Disclosures) Act) to every TD constituency office and Citizens Information Centre in the country.
We also continue to collaborate with civil society partners (The Probation Service, IASIO (Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders), Pathways, Bridge Project and key stakeholders including employers and Insurance brokers) on the Insurance Working Group, with the aim of securing fair access to insurance for people with convictions.
We continue to receive regular calls and enquiries on these issues to our office, so it is clear that this is still an issue that very much affects people’s travel, employment and insurance prospects.
See here, or follow the #SpentConvictions hashtag, for updates.
If you have any questions or would like further information about this campaign, please contact Campaigns@iprt.ie.
After the launch of the first ‘Progress in the Penal System’ (PIPS) Report on 24 October 2017, and subsequent engagement with stakeholders, work has commenced on the second report, PIPS 2018.
This report will be the second in a series of three annual reports providing a comprehensive analysis of human rights and best practice in Ireland’s penal system. IPRT has developed 35 standards against which the prevailing situation in Ireland’s penal system will be independently tracked, monitored and assessed on an annual basis.
The 35 standards fall into the following categories:
Michelle Martyn, IPRT Senior Research and Policy Project Manager, is centrally involved in the research and delivery of this publication, with the support of a Research Advisory Group.
PIPS 2018 will be launched in October 2018.
All fourteen Prison Visiting Committees reports, for visits relating to 2016, were published on 16 January 2018.
The reports clearly point to drugs-related violence as a key issue for the Irish Prison Service, and that solitary confinement, and extended periods of isolation, were still being used across the prison system to manage this problem - particularly in Mountjoy prison where it has been reported that at times one in four prisoners are ‘on protection’.
However, using isolation as a tool for the management of prison violence creates new problems for prisoners, preventing them from accessing education, training and out of cell time which, in turn, can have serious impacts on mental health. While there has been a prison policy in place to eliminate the use of solitary confinement since July 2017, a more concerted effort must be made to address the core issue of drug-related violence.
For more on this, read here.
The Law Reform Commission (LRC) invited submissions to their Fifth Programme of Law Reform. Under the Law Reform Commission Act 1975, the Commission is required to periodically prepare a Programme of Law Reform, which forms the principal basis on which they carry out their statutory mandate to keep the law under review with a view to its reform and modernisation. The new 5th Programme of Law Reform will, as provided by the 1975 Act, be prepared by the Commission in consultation with the Attorney General for submission by the Taoiseach to the Government for approval.
In February 2018, IPRT made two submissions to the LRC, suggesting that Prison Law Reform, and Sentencing Guidelines be included in the next Programme for Law Reform. For more on this, read here.
IPRT also welcomed the opportunity to provide its views on the role and priorities of the Probation Service as part of the development of its Strategic Plan 2018-2020.
One of the core objectives of IPRT’s advocacy work is to ensure that prison is used as a sanction of last resort as even short periods of imprisonment can have long-term, damaging effects, including disruption to family life, loss of employment and access to services, and an increased risk of institutionalisation as a result of the prison environment.
Within this context, IPRT believes that the promotion, and effective delivery of alternatives to custody, extended nationwide, should remain a key priority for the Probation Service in the period 2018-2020. The Probation Service plays a vital role in reducing the prison population and providing individuals with opportunities to contribute to society in a meaningful way. For more, read here.
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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 and two project 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 is also grateful for core funding from the following:
Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.