Improving Prison Health: Using Advocacy Tools to Affect Change
Inside Reform: Prison Healthcare Campaigns, Past and Present. Inside Reform was a policy workshop co-convened by Associate Professor Catherine Cox (UCD) and Professor Hilary Marland(Warwick), as part of their Wellcome Trust Senior Investigator Award Project, ‘Prisoners, Medical Care and Entitlement to Health in England and Ireland, 1850-2000’. This event was hosted by the UCD Centre for the History of Medicine in Ireland and held at the National Gallery of Ireland on 2 June 2017.
In her presentation Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Acting Director of the Irish Prison Reform Trust(IPRT), focused on advocacy tools, provided a case study on solitary confinement, and finished with a word of caution on the possible unintended consequences of reform campaigns. Defining the IPRT as an independent campaign organisation focused on progressive policy change, Fíona stated that in regard to prison healthcare the organisation has focused on the equivalence of care principle, the promotion of preventative services and continuity of care following discharge.
Fíona argued that the failures of social policy contribute to higher prison populations – a point underlined by the fact that the Irish prison population is characterised by poor health, poor socio-economic backgrounds and the experience of social marginalisation. Some 70 per cent of male prisoners and 85 per cent of female prisoners have substance addictions. There is also a high proportion of poor mental health amongst prisoners and some 20 to 30 prisoners are currently in Cloverhill Prison awaiting transfer to the Central Mental Hosptial Dundrum.
Fíona then outlined the general workflow for IPRT campaigns. In the first instance they identify an issue and this identification may derive from the expertise of IPRT board members, from communication with individual prisoners, from research, from inspection reports or by monitoring prison issues that emerge internationally. Once an issue is identified, the IPRT, as a solution focused organisation, then seeks to develop evidence-based policy proposals. These proposals are first promoted through constructive advocacy by making submissions, engaging in process and building capacity in other organisations. If constructive advocacy yields no dividend, the IPRT then go to the media, particularly using international monitoring processes, such as the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture, to embarrass the Irish government, if necessary, on the world stage.
Fíona Ní Chinnéide
Fíona is acting up in the role of Acting Executive Director to October 2017. Along with the functions of that role, Fíona is responsible for managing the implementation of Irish Penal Reform Trusts’ Campaigns and Communications Programme, in line with IPRT’s Strategic Plan, and ensures the effective management of staff and interns. Fíona joined IPRT in March 2009 as Campaigns & Communications Officer. In her former role, as PR & Communications Manager for the European Youth Card Association, she managed a number of European cross-media campaigns, focusing on aspects of active citizenship and human rights, supported by the Council of Europe and the European Commission. Fíona also has extensive experience working in communications within the not-for-profit sector in Ireland, and also as a freelance editor. A twice graduate of Trinity College Dublin, Fíona was awarded a Masters in Political Communication from Dublin City University in 2015.