Progress in the
Penal System (PIPS)

33: Parole system

Standard 33:

The parole system is fair, transparent and fully independent of ministerial control.

Rationale:

The establishment of a statutory parole system independent of political control should provide fairness and transparency in the system. This would support a proper balance between the protection of the public and the rights of a sentenced person to a fair and balance system of release.[553]

Current context:

On 23 July 2019, the Parole Act 2019 was signed into law by the President.[554] This Act will place the Parole Board on a statutory footing with the power to make final decisions on the release of eligible prisoners. The Act also introduces a number of other provisions, and increases the number of years before a life-sentenced prisoner can become eligible for his/her first parole review to 12 years. The Act also introduces access to legal representation for parole candidates and for victims. The Parole Board will be required to provide information to prisoners, victims and the general public about its functions.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 33

Indicator S33:1: The placement of the Parole Board on a statutory footing.

On 23 July 2019, the Parole Act 2019 was signed into law by the President. However, the Act has not yet become operationalised.

Indicator S33.2: Parole Board hearings occur in a timely manner, and outcomes are communicated promptly to parole candidates.

This information is not available.

Analysis

IPRT welcomes that the Parole Board will be placed on a statutory footing with parole decisions removed from ministerial control. However, IPRT is concerned at the increase in the number of years (from seven to 12) before a life-sentenced prisoner can become eligible for their first parole review. Therefore, it is vital that the sentence management of life-sentenced prisoners is prioritised and begins at the earliest point (from one year onwards) in their sentence. This will require the ring-fencing of ISM officers.

Status of Standard 33: Progress

Actions required:

Action 33.1: The Parole Board should be fully resourced in order to meet its important remit, and ensure that all eligible prisoners are reviewed in a timely manner.

References:

Irish Penal Reform Trust

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