Thursday, 11 July 2019
Parole Bill 2016: Committee and Remaining Stages
I wish to speak in support of this amendment. I have already spoken about my issue with lengthening the time before a person becomes eligible for parole from seven years, which is the current practice, to 12 years. I am concerned that this will reduce the potential for rehabilitation of individuals. As the Irish Penal Reform Trust has pointed out to us, the parole process does take some time. Engagement by prisoners with services and treatments often is strengthened once the first parole is scheduled and the first parole review is generally only the beginning of the review process. If we only schedule the first parole review at 12 years, it will prolong the period before a person may engage sufficiently with rehabilitation. It also reduces the capacity for rehabilitation and reintegration into society. For a number of reasons it would be better to have more flexibility. This is what Senator Ruane's amendment seeks to do. It proposes to delete subsection (4) from section 26.
It seems particularly harsh in the case of children serving sentences for life imprisonment when release on parole is only considered at 12 years, even if he or she has made applications prior to the 12 years. The Minister has not engaged with me on this although I have raised it a number of times. I have combed through the Bill to see if there is any reference to children in it. The only reference I can see is in section 13(2)(b), which refers to prisons or children detention schools. Clearly the Bill applies to children in that the persons applying for parole can be children. This is envisaged in section 13. The 12 years is a lengthy period and the provision in section 26(4) that states "the Board shall not consider the person’s release on parole prior to the date on which he or she becomes so eligible" just prolongs the period before which there can be no consideration of an application for parole. I believe it would be better to have a little more flexibility built in.