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Connolly, Johnny (2010) Reintegration of prisoners in Ireland. Drugnet Ireland , Issue 35, Autumn 2010 , p. 22.

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In May 2010 the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) published the report ‘It’s like stepping on a landmine…’: reintegration of prisoners in Ireland.1 The IPRT is an independent non-governmental organisation which campaigns for the rights of people in prison and the reform of penal policy.  

The study, conducted between October 2009 and February 2010, consisted of a literature review, a number of semi-structured interviews with service providers (in the statutory and non-statutory sectors), a questionnaire completed by service providers throughout Ireland, and two focus groups with ex-prisoners in Dublin. The report lists the aims of the study:
 
  • to review national and international practice and policy (including human rights standards) relating to reintegration;
  • to identify barriers to reintegration of ex-prisoners in Ireland;
  • to map, as far as possible, available services and identify possible gaps in service provision; and
  • to make recommendations for development of future policy and practice.
 
The study found that, although ‘significant progress has been made in recent years in integrating post-release services ... by the Irish Prison Service [IPS] and its partners, there remains a less than uniform approach to the provision of necessary services in individual prisons and access to support is dependent on the facility in which the prisoner finds his- or herself’ (p.3). Service provision also varies between different areas of the country. The study also found that the unstructured use of Temporary Release (TR), often used to alleviate pressure on overcrowded prisons and to make spaces available to new prisoners, impacts negatively on preparation for release. The study found that prisoners are sometimes given no more than a few hours notice before being released, and some are released when outside services are unavailable, on Friday evenings or at the weekend for example.
 
The report notes some positive developments in recent years, such as the development of a system of Integrated Sentence Management (ISM) in some prisons, and wider provision of drug counselling services, including those provided in Dublin by Merchants’ Quay Ireland. The IPRT makes a number of recommendations arising from the findings of the study, including the following:
 
·       The IPS should provide appropriate access and facilities for practitioners working with prisoners on drug and alcohol addictions, including the provision of facilities ensuring confidentiality and a therapeutic environment for service users.
·       All prisons should provide drug-free landings.
·       The IPS, in partnership with relevant service providers, should ensure arrangements are made for prisoners to continue drug and alcohol addiction treatment upon release when required.
·       The government should make the introduction of spent convictions legislation a priority in 2010, to assist prisoners in entering employment post release.
 
The authors state that during the research it became clear that they would not be able to address many of the issues which arose, including the specific needs of children and young people leaving custody, or of foreign national prisoners, and the needs of families who support prisoners during custody and upon release. The IPRT plans to follow up on these issues in the near future. 
 
1. Martynowicz A and Quigley M (2010) ‘It’s like stepping on a landmine’; reintegration of prisoners in Ireland. Dublin: Irish Penal Reform Trust. Available at www.drugsandalcohol.ie/13496

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