A Step At A Time – The Resettlement Needs of Irish People Returning From Prison Overseas

ICPO engages in policy and advocacy work on issues affecting Irish prisoners overseas and their families.

A Step At A Time

The Resettlement Needs of Irish People Returning From Prison Overseas

Irish prisoners overseas are at particular disadvantage as they don’t have the same opportunities to prepare for their release as people imprisoned in Ireland. Many of ICPO’s clients have lived abroad and been imprisoned abroad for a number of years. ICPO provides them with advice and support in advance of their release and assists them in accessing the supports they will require upon their return to Ireland.

Whilst it is not possible to precisely state the number of Irish overseas prisoners seeking to resettle in Ireland on an annual basis, ICPO believes it to be less than 100. This is so as a significant majority of Irish prisoners released there do not wish to return to Ireland owing to the presence of their family and other social structures residing in the UK. Others may have been imprisoned overseas but opted not to contact ICPO.

Some of those seeking to resettle here may have good support structures already in place and do not require intensive support. However, there are a small but significant number of Irish ex-prisoners – possibly 50-60 annually, who require quite a considerable amount of assistance. More and more ICPO resources are being devoted to assisting and supporting these Irish ex-prisoners resettle in Ireland and sign-posting them to the various services available. This work has also allowed ICPO to identify particular challenges faced by this group and for this reason, a more detailed examination was deemed necessary.

It is common case that many prisoners face a number of challenges in terms of their resettlement. Such challenges are exacerbated when one is trying to prepare for these from prison overseas as the internationalisation of the issue creates a great deal of extra work for those involved – both prisoner and service provider. Irish prisoners may be incarcerated in a country that does not provide resettlement services or they may be unable to access them as they are to be deported upon completion of their sentence. They may lack the opportunity to work with many of the post-release support agencies and related structures during their detention and therefore do not benefit from a continuity of support that moves from their time in prison to life outside of one. ICPO endeavours to bridge this gap but challenges remain and those retuning to Ireland may be said to be uniquely vulnerable vis a vis Irish prisoners being released from Irish prisons.

This report aspires only to begin a conversation around the resettlement needs of Irish ex-prisoners resettling in Ireland and to examine current practises. It is not intended to a definitive or all-encompassing account. Rather, it more modestly hopes to develop an awareness and understanding amongst those working with Irish prisoners overseas or those whose decisions, directly or indirectly impact upon this group, of the needs and challenges this group encounters.

A Step At A Time  The Resettlement Needs of Irish People Returning From Prison Overseas

Transfer of Prisoners

Repatriation is an important issue for many Irish prisoners overseas who wish to serve their sentence close to their families, particularly those detained in countries where prison conditions are poor and their health may be at risk. We acknowledge with gratitude the cooperation we receive from the Department of Justice and Equality in helping us to monitor repatriation applications.

The ICPO is currently engaged in extensive advocacy on the issue of repatriation of IPP sentenced prisoners in the UK. The Indeterminate Sentence for Public Protection (IPP) was abolished by the UK Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act 2012; however, there will be no sentence conversion for those already serving an IPP. The ICPO is extremely concerned about this as IPP sentenced prisoners are currently not eligible to apply for repatriation to Ireland on the basis that there is no equivalent sentence under Irish law. On 11 March 2014 the ICPO made a presentation to the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality on this issue. View the presentation here: http://www.oireachtas.ie/viewdoc.asp?DocID=25690&&CatID=127

CEP Special Interest Group on Foreign Nationals

The ICPO is a full member of the CEP (Confederation of European Probation) Special Interest Group on Foreign Nationals. This is a network of independent organisations that support European citizens imprisoned outside their country of residence and their families. The aim of the CEP Special Interest Group on Foreign Nationals is to promote the welfare and interests of European citizens who are detained outside their country of residence, in order to facilitate their social reintegration.

For further information on the CEP Special Interest Group visit http://www.cep-probation.org/page/79/foreign-national-prisoners

Detention Rights Working Group

The ICPO is a member of the Coalition of Irish Immigration Centers (CIIC) Detention Rights Working Group. This group explores detention and immigration issues in the United States. Staff members from a number of Irish immigration centres, including Irish chaplains attached to the Irish Apostolate USA, generously donate their time to visit ICPO clients who otherwise might not receive any visitors.

For further information on the Detention Rights Working Group visit http://ciic-usa.org/