Articles tagged with: Penal Policy

Psychology and the Penal System

on Wednesday, 12 March 2014. Posted in Issue 73 The Rights of Workers – Then and Now, Penal Policy

Mountjoy

Mountjoy Prison                        © D. Speirs

Paul O'Mahony

Introduction

In this article, I intend to look back and draw contrasts between the current situation of Irish prisons and what prevailed when I joined the prison service, as one of the group of four psychologists, newly employed in 1980.

Redefining Standards Downwards: The Deterioration in Basic Living Conditions in Irish Prisons and the Failure of Policy

on Friday, 12 October 2012. Posted in Issue 70 Prison Policy Matters

Introduction

The phrase 'redefining standards' might be assumed to imply a commitment to higher, more rigorous, standards, along with the more effective enforcement of such standards. In the case of the Irish prison system, however, we have seen over the past two decades alarming examples of where standards have been re-defined downwards, so that, for a majority of those detained in our prisons, basic living conditions have significantly deteriorated and the experience of being in prison has become even more burdensome and damaging.

Focus Ireland Prison In-Reach Service

on Friday, 12 October 2012. Posted in Issue 70 Prison Policy Matters , Penal Policy

 

Introduction

On any given day in Ireland, prison doors open and men and women step out into the daylight. But what happens to them when those heavy doors close behind them? The bleak truth for a great number is that they have no home to go to and nobody to welcome them upon their release. Many will be back inside prison within a year.

Transforming Healthcare in Irish Prisons

on Friday, 12 October 2012. Posted in Issue 70 Prison Policy Matters , Penal Policy

 

Introduction

There are fourteen prisons across the Republic of Ireland, catering mainly for men but also women (who represent around 3.5 per cent of the prison population) and young offenders. Most of these prisons are high security facilities – there are only two open prisons in the State, which cater for just over 5 per cent of prisoners. The most recent annual report of the Irish Prison Service shows that 17,318 people were committed to prison in 2011, an increase of 0.8 per cent on the 2010 total of 17,179.1

 

Exploring the Policy Process: The Genesis of the Dóchas Centre

on Friday, 12 October 2012. Posted in Issue 70 Prison Policy Matters , Penal Policy

 

Introduction

What might good prison policy look like in practice? In an article in The Guardian in May 2012, Halden Prison in Norway, which opened in 2010, was described as 'the most humane prison in the world'.1 Yet the prison is, in fact, a high-security jail accommodating about 250 prisoners found guilty of the most serious offences, including murder, manslaughter, and sex offences.

Working Notes Issue 67 Editorial

on Thursday, 29 September 2011. Posted in Issue 67 Questioning Drug Policy

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Working Notes:Issue 67 Editorial

Two of the three articles in this issue of Working Notes deal with the distinct but not unrelated issues of drug policy and prison overcrowding; the third with the broader topic of the reform of public services generally.

In the opening article, Fr Peter McVerry SJ calls for a radical appraisal of current approaches to dealing with illegal drug use. Pointing out that ‘drug policy’ encompasses both policies to deal with the supply of drugs and policies to deal with demand, he says that addressing supply absorbs by far the greater share of public expenditure. Yet, despite successes by the authorities in intercepting supplies, the inflow of drugs continues, with powerful criminal gangs controlling this trade. Fr McVerry says there is need for a serious rethink of policy in relation to how the State can control the supply of drugs and suggests that the findings and recommendations of the Global Commission on Drug Policy, published in June 2011, provide some useful guidelines for the much-needed public and political debate on the issue.

In relation to policies to control demand, Fr McVerry highlights the importance of addressing demand among those who are habitual users or who are addicted to drugs. He emphasises the need for a comprehensive range of detoxification, rehabilitative and after-care services, and says that it is essential that these be accessible without undue delays. While the importance of all these elements has long since been recognised in official policy and strategy statements, provision falls far short of need, and existing services are endangered by current cutbacks in public funding.

Overcrowding is widely recognised to be a core problem of the Irish prison system, one which affects every aspect of prison life.This issue is addressed in an article by Patrick Hume SJ who notes that many Irish prisons are overcrowded even in terms of the most basic level of ‘bed capacity’ – simply the number of beds which can be fitted into a prison building. Moreover, he says it would appear that the prison authorities have now abandoned the principle that ‘one person per cell’ should be the norm. 

Fr Hume shows that international human rights agreements provide only general guidance as to what constitutes ‘desirable’ cell capacity and that in any case the provisions of such agreements can be appealed to in Irish courts only if they have been explicitly made part of domestic law. He shows too that while judgments of the Irish courts have upheld the basic rights of prisoners it is clear that the courts are unwilling to meddle in the administration of the prison system by specifying the conditions under which prisoners may be detained. He concludes that there is limited scope for a legal route through the courts towards ensuring that our prisons provide adequate accommodation, and argues that there is need for an informed public to advocate strongly for the changes necessary to close the gap between the prison conditions to which we should be aspiring and the reality of the conditions now prevailing.

The economic crisis of the last few years has focused increased attention on the importance and urgency of reform of Irish public services. In the third article in this issue, Dr Fergus O’Ferrall points out that the outcomes of services are in fact ‘co-produced’ by users and providers and so it makes sense to ensure public participation in the design and implementation of public services. However, he says, too often services are based on ‘passive models of delivery and narrow understandings of solidarity’, with citizens being seen as dependants or clients. Dr O’Ferrall argues for a ‘human development and capability approach’ to public service reform, one which would see citizens as ‘active, creative and able to act on behalf of their aspirations’, and which would allow for ‘participation, public debate, democratic practice and empowerment’ in the framing and implementation of services. He suggests that a capability approach is particularly necessary in relation to the reform of our health services, pointing out that effectively addressing the key public health problems of our times – obesity, harmful alcohol consumption and socio-economic differentials in health – will depend not on spending ever-increasing sums on health services (even if that were possible) but on the active commitment of informed and engaged citizens.

Drug Policy: Need for Radical Change?

on Thursday, 29 September 2011. Posted in Issue 67 Questioning Drug Policy

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Drug Policy: Need for a Radical Change?

Introduction

What began as a heroin problem in inner-city Dublin in the 1980s has now spread like a cancer throughout Irish society. A wide variety of drugs, from cannabis to heroin to cocaine and on to crack cocaine, are now available in almost every town and village in Ireland. Crystal meth will probably be the next wave of drugs to hit our shores. While many of us have lived our entire lives without ever seeing an illegal drug, this most certainly cannot be assumed to be the case for the children and young people now growing up in our society.

The monetary value of the illegal drug trade in Ireland probably runs to hundreds of millions of euro per year.1 This ‘business’ has created about twenty violent drug gangs, who import illegal drugs and control their sale. Despite the successes of the Gardaí in seizing huge quantities of drugs and arresting those who are dealing in this trade, there is no shortage of drugs on our streets. As long as a kilo of cocaine can be bought in South America for €700, and sold on the streets of our cities and towns for €70,000, there will be no shortage of people willing to risk imprisonment – or worse – for this kind of profit. Each new generation of drug dealers is more violent and more alienated from the society around them than those who went before, and the factors which trigger their violence are becoming more and more trivial. Their violence and threats of violence discourage all but the bravest from providing information or evidence to the Gardaí.

Overcrowding and Cell Capacity in Irish Prisons

on Thursday, 29 September 2011. Posted in Issue 67 Questioning Drug Policy

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Overcrowding and Cell Capacity in Irish Prisons

Introduction

Any discussion of prison conditions or overall prison policy in Ireland cannot but give close attention to the question of the overcrowding that is pervasive throughout the prison system.

This overcrowding starkly reflects the reality that the numbers imprisoned, both on remand and under sentence, have grown significantly over the past thirty years, with the daily average number of people in prison increasing more than three-fold, reaching well over 4,000 in 2010.

There has been an expansion in prison places – with, for example, the building of large extensions to many prisons, but the number of additional places has not matched the increase in the number of people detained. The result is that, in most of the country’s prisons, cells designed for one person now routinely accommodate two or even more people. On 7 December 2010, 63 per cent of those detained in Irish prisons – 2,762 people out of a total prison population of 4,416 – were not accommodated in a single cell.1

Pro Bono: Still Relevant for Access to Justice

on Wednesday, 18 November 2009. Posted in Issue 62 Who Will Pay for Recession?

Patrick Hume SJ

November, 2009

Pro Bono: Still Relevant for Access to Justice

Introduction

A call to justice for the poor and marginalised is to be found in the three major monotheistic faith traditions. The Hebrew tradition specifically mentions the need for justice for the poor in their lawsuits.1 In Christian scriptures, scribes or lawyers were encouraged to foster justice, especially among the poor and widows. A similar call to justice can be found in the Quran,2 alongside calls to charity.3 Each tradition is intimately linked to law, and emphasises the need for its careful application with justice and mercy.4

Is Expansion of Prison Places for Women Needed? An Analysis of Statistics, 2003–2006

on Thursday, 30 October 2008. Posted in Issue 59 In Recession who will be left Stranded?

Daragh McGreal and Tony O’Riordan SJ
November 2008

pdf Is Expansion of Prison Places for Women Needed? An Analysis of Statistics, 2003-2006

Introduction

Current government prison policy envisages the closure of the Dóchas Centre in Mountjoy and the opening of new women’s prisons at Thornton Hall, in north Dublin and at Kilworth, Co. Cork, resulting in a doubling of the number of places for women prisoners. This radical expansion of prison capacity for female offenders is being justified by the authorities on the grounds that the existing facilities at Dóchas and in Limerick Prison are routinely overcrowded and that the prison building programme being undertaken at present needs to be ‘future proofed’ to cater for an on-going increase in the female prison population.

 

Crime and Punishment: A Christian Perspective

on Wednesday, 02 July 2008. Posted in Issue 58 Time for Justice?

Gerry O’Hanlon SJ
July, 2008

pdf Crime and Punishment: A Christian Perspective

 

Introduction

Justice
Balancing the diverse elements of justice
© JCFJ

At the height of the Northern Ireland Troubles, it was usual to distinguish between paramilitary prisoners and ODCs – ‘ordinary decent criminals’. The terminology is suggestive, even provocative: is it ever right to consider criminals as ‘ordinary’, much less ‘decent’? Certainly, it would be altogether wrong to trivialise the plight of victims, and especially victims of violent crime, by too lightly using a euphemism like ‘ordinary decent criminals’.

What Does God Think of Irish Prisons?

on Wednesday, 02 July 2008. Posted in Issue 58 Time for Justice?

Brian Grogan SJ
July, 2008

pdf What Does God Think of Irish Prisons?

 

Introduction

Mountjoy Prison Chapel
Mural painted by a prisoner; Mountjoy Prison Chapel
© D. Speirs

 


The April 2008 issue of Working Notes entitled, ‘Thornton Hall Prison – A Progressive Move?’, has inspired the following article, which is written from the viewpoint of Catholic theology. I have never been jailed myself; however, courtesy of the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform I had the privilege of visiting a number of Irish prisons some years ago. I also visit a friend who is currently serving a jail sentence.

Women in Prison: The Corston Report

on Wednesday, 02 July 2008. Posted in Issue 58 Time for Justice?

Baroness Jean Corston
July, 2008

pdf Women in Prison: The Corston Report

Introduction

Lady Jean Corston

Baroness Jean Corstonaddressing the seminar, \'Women in Prison: The Need for a Critical Review\'

© JCFJ

In March 2006, I was commissioned by the then Home Secretary, Charles Clarke MP, to undertake ‘a review of women with particular vulnerabilities in the criminal justice system’ of England and Wales. My report was published in March 2007.1 In December 2007, the Government issued an official response to the findings of the review.2

In this paper I want, first of all, to say something about the background to the review. I will then say what I found, what I concluded, and what is now happening in response to my report.

 

Working Notes Issue 58 Editorial

on Wednesday, 02 July 2008. Posted in Issue 58 Time for Justice?

July, 2008

pdf Working Notes Issue 58 Editorial

 

‘Women should be imprisoned only if the offences they have committed are of such seriousness that the protection of the public, or the interests of justice, require that they receive a custodial sentence’; ‘where women need to be imprisoned, they should be detained in small, geographically-dispersed, multi-functional custodial units, not large prisons’; ‘both custodial and non-custodial penalties should try to address the complex social and personal problems that generally underlie women’s offending’; ‘women’s prisons should never be located on the same sites as prisons for men’.

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In February 2016, the Jesuit Secretariat for Social Justice and Ecology and for Higher Education in Rome published a Special Report on Justice in the Global Economy. The Report was compiled by an international group of Jesuits and lay colleagues in the fields of social science and economics, philosophy and theology. This issue of Working Notes is a response to the Report. Read full editorial

Working Notes is a journal published by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. The journal focuses on social, economic and theological analysis of Irish society in the areas of . It has been produced three times a year since 1987, and all of the articles are available in full on this site. Read More..