Reforming the Early Release System in Ireland Irish Penal Reform Trust
Contextual Background • IPRT Submission to the Thornton Hall Review Group 2011 • Recommendations of Thornton Hall Review Group included: • Incentivised scheme for earned TR • Use of Alternatives to custody • Strategic Review Group on Penal Policy
Three Mechanisms for Early Release in Ireland Remission-Prison Rules 2007, S59 (1) Temporary Release/Parole, Criminal Justice Act 1960 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 Power to Commute or Remit Sentence, Article 13.6 of the Constitution
Release in Other Jurisdictions: England & Wales Determinate sentences released at the half-way point automatically Indeterminate Sentences-Parole Board reviews Right to legal representation and oral hearings can occur
Release in Other Jurisdictions: Scotland Prisoners and Criminal Proceedings Act 1993 Short-term prisoners (less than four years) released automatically at the half way point Long term prisoners (over four years) released at two-thirds of sentence
Release in Other Jurisdictions: France First-time offenders may apply for conditional release at the half-way point Recidivists must have served at least two-thirds of their sentence Decisions regarding early release are made by tribunals of judges
Parole, ECHR and European Human Rights Norms State Obligations under the ECHR European Prison Rules 2006 (1) System of prison leave should be an integral part of the general prison regime (Art 103) (2) TR should form part of a structured gradual release process for long-term prisoners (Art. 107)
1. Transparency and Predictability Recommendation on Prison Leave (1982) that the prisoner should be informed to the “greatest extent possible on refusal of TR” and have the right to appeal.
2. Independence of Decision-Making Recommendations on Conditional Release (Parole) (2003) all decision-making processes should be fair and open procedures (Article 32)
3. Speediness of Parole Hearings Article 5(4) ECHR: “Everyone who is deprived of his liberty by arrest or detention shall be entitled to take proceedings by which the lawfulness of his detention shall be decided speedily by a court and his release ordered if his detention is not lawful.”
3. Speediness of Parole Hearings (contd.) Right to Compensation regardless of the parole outcome - Falkner v Parole Board , Sturnham v Parole Board 
4. Revocation of Release Article 5 (4) of the ECHR European Rules on Community Sanctions and Measures 1992 and Recommendation on Conditional Release (2003): opportunity to make representation to a competent body where all relevant circumstances should be taken into account.
5. Legal Representation Occurs in New Zealand and England & Wales Thynne V United Kingdom (1991)
IPRT Proposals for Reform • Single Early Release Act - Remission, Temporary Release and Parole Act • Underpinning the system should be the following core values: • (1) Fair procedures and independent decision-making
IPRT Proposals for Reform (contd.) (2) Clear and transparent criteria for release (3) Detailed reasons should be disclosed (4) Remedies should be available to challenge refusals of leave
Reform of Remission 1. Sentences of under 5 years: • Standard Remission at the half-way point 2. Sentences of over 5 years: • Standard Remission at the two-thirds point • Enhanced remission whereby prisoners who engage with services can earn up to 50%
Use of Temporary Release Release on compassionate grounds Day release Christmas release or other equivalent religious events Release for purposes of employment or training in preparation for full release Weekend or day release in preparation for full release
‘Earned’ Early Release System of earned early release should be provided for in the legislation Qualifying criteria and systems of measuring eligibility for earned early release should be set out in the Act. Funding into ISM to ensure it is fully operational
Parole Reform: Independence Parole Board put on a statutory footing to remove political influence from the decision-making process
Speediness of Parole Hearings Automatically scheduled by law for parole review within six months of their eligibility date. If a prisoner does not secure release, follow-up reviews should be scheduled every year for prisoners serving under ten years, and every two years for those serving over ten years.
Right to Legal Representation Right to legal representation Particularly important for life-sentenced prisoners who have no release date to look forward to.
Focus on Risk The focus should be on risk to society; the Parole Board should not engage in a ‘re-sentencing’ process Importance of professional expertise on the Parole Board, including psychologists and psychiatrists.
Expanding the remit of the Parole Board The remit of the Parole Board should be expanded to those serving sentences of five years or more. Increase resources of the Parole Board
Revocation Terms should be reasonable and proportionate A violation of conditions in the absence of committing a criminal offence should not mean a prisoner is automatically returned to prison
Power to Pardon Collectively consider making use of the right of pardon to commute or remit punishment in order to bring the prison population within safe custody limits.