Category: Penal Policy

The Allure of Carceral Feminism

***Trigger Warning – Hyperlinks continue to media accounts of sexual and gender-based violence***   Introduction There is no doubt that sexual and gendered violence is a social problem in Ireland. Even a glance at recent news headlines will confirm this in harrowing detail. In three recent convictions alone, we have heard brave accounts from victims… Read more »

Children and the Irish legal system

It was a demoralising, destructive and dehumanising experience, with no redeeming features, characterised by idleness and boredom. Some politicians and tabloid media believed the regime was not sufficiently harsh to deter them from committing further crime on release. One young person there summed it up very succinctly when he said: “This place brings out the worst in you.” 

“You Only Do Two Days”

When the Minister for Justice said that “six prisoners were required to be released immediately,” this is either unintentionally erroneous or misleading. These six were not prisoners by definition. Yes, they were in prison but their legal status was profoundly different from that of a prisoner. The sentence they received had been served, they were free people who were being detained in prison with no legal basis or grounding. Their sentences had expired. Something as important as the calculation of released should have safeguards with as many checks as is needed to ensure that a person is guaranteed their correct day of release.

Nothing New Under the Sun

  Two weeks ago, I wrote about how the decision of the Department of Justice to not publish two Dóchas Centre reports undermines its stated commitment to combat violence against women. The stated justification was that the Minister was acting on legal counsel sought by her Department. We know a little more about the serious… Read more »

Whose Violence? Which Women?

If reports into conduct within a closed institution for women deemed worthy of investigation are mothballed on a shelf due to “legal advice,” than an accompanying explanation must also be forthcoming. Are there ongoing criminal investigations based on the report? Are there security risks to the safe custody of the women in the Dóchas Centre? An allusion to legal advice is not sufficient when the stakes are so high.

More Women in Prison: The Only Certainty in Prison Policy in 2022

The vast majority of women are imprisoned for non-violent property crimes and the judiciary will likely continue in its paternalistic vein of either giving the women a “short, sharp shock” or an opportunity to have an assessment and receive treatment. As such, regardless of the meritous developments within the new Limerick prison block, the end result is likely an intensification of this carceral paternalism of poor women and Traveller women.

The Compassionate Prison Paradox

While security and compassion will always be in tension in a carceral environment, little evidence exists to demonstrate an equal footing.

Covid-19 and the Decarceral Instinct

Much complexity has been added to the day-to-day working of Irish prisons over the past 20 months; ranging from necessary health protocols to ever-increasing restrictive regimes by way of serious technological upgrades, but it may be more helpful to reflect on the initial decarceral instinct of policymakers.

The 1985 Whitaker Report

Peter McVerry SJ was on the Whitaker Committee in 1984 which reported to government the following year that communities are made safer not when we imprison more people for longer, but when those we imprison are released as better people, with more skills, more opportunities open to them and more hope that their future can be different from their past.

Reflections on the Unheard Voices of Prisoners

Early in the book, I read the sentence that has stayed with me longest: “Is it not time for some prison walls to come down and for society to have the courage and foresight to explore other options to address the issues of crime and punishment?”