Skip to main content

Trinity College Dublin, The University of Dublin

Trinity Menu Trinity Search

Prisons: the Rule of Law, Accountability and Rights (PRILA)


European Union (EU) Member States can now participate in the first survey on prison oversight bodies. The primary purpose of this data collection effort is to better understand the structures for dealing with inspection of prisons across the EU. The online survey opened on January 28 and is available for 60 days. NPMs and other oversight bodies should have received an email from with an invitation and survey link. If you have not received the invitation, please contact us at

The European Survey on Prison Oversight Bodies

European Union (EU) Member States can now participate in the first survey on prison oversight bodies. The primary purpose of this data collection effort is to better understand the structures for dealing with inspection of prisons across the EU.

The online survey opened on January 28 and is available for 60 days. NPMs and other oversight bodies should have received an email from with an invitation and survey link. If you have not received the invitation, please contact us at

The European Survey on Prison Oversight Bodies (ESPO) is the first cross-national survey on prison oversight bodies. Its main objective is to gather updated and comparable information on the structures for dealing with the inspection of prisons across the European Union. The survey is directed by Dr Mary Rogan and Dr Eva Aizpurua, at Trinity College Dublin, as part of the PRILA project.

The European Survey on Prison Oversight Bodies opens on Monday, 28 January, and will be available for 60 days.

The survey was developed by the PRILA team in consultation with international experts in the field. It seeks responses from experts in participating countries, and takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The PRILA team working on the ESPO survey can be contacted at Please feel free to email us if you have questions concerning the study, or if you know other people who would like to be included on our mailing list.

About the Project

The Project aims:

1. To find out whether accountability is a distinctive norm of the European legal system in the field of prisons;

2. To engage in comparative legal analysis on the topic of accountability in prisons by exploring European law and that of the United States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights;

3. To find out how accountability is experienced by prisoners, prison staff and staff of bodies such as Ombudsmen, inspectors, and bodies which deal with complaints;

4. To create a typology of accountability bodies in European prison systems, and examine the relationship between the presence of such bodies and other indicators of prison regimes.

The PRILA project will be organising conferences and seminars on its work, as well as developing briefing papers for policymakers and people affected by accountability, inspection and oversight of prisons.


Consultative Council

The PRILA project is grateful for the support and assistance of an international Consultative Council. Members of the Consultative Council provide guidance, suggestions and advice to the research team on the project. Members of the Consultative Council act in an advisory capacity.

The members of the Consultative Council are Ian Cameron, Niall Walsh, Kitty Calavita, Azrini Wahidin, Valerie Jenness, Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit, Dr. Jamie Bennett, Don Specter, Hugh Chetwynd and Jim Mitchell. Further information can be found below.

Ian Cameron

Ian Cameron joined Criminal Justice Inspection Northern Ireland (CJINI) as an Inspector in May 2009.

CJINI is an independent, statutory inspectorate established in 2003 under s.45 of the Justice (Northern Ireland) Act 2002. It is the only unified inspectorate in the United Kingdom or Ireland that can look at all the agencies that make up the criminal justice system apart from the judiciary. Organisations which CJI inspect include the police service, prison service, prosecution service, youth justice services, probation service and the courts.

Since joining CJINI, Ian has carried out a number of inspections of the three prisons in Northern Ireland, but has also undertaken a number of thematic prison inspections including Corporate Governance in the Northern Ireland Prison Service, the Management of Life and ICS Prisoners, the Safety of Prisoners held by the Northern Ireland Prison Service, and is currently engaged in an Inspection of Prisoner Resettlement.

In the wider criminal justice system he has carried out Inspections of Securing Attendance at Court, Mental Health, the Enforcement of Fines, Avoidable Delay, Domestic Violence and Abuse, Youth Offending Interventions and the Northern Ireland Courts Service Estate. Most recently his inspection work was in relation to cyber-crime and business crime.

Kitty Calavita

Kitty Calavita is Chancellor’s Professor Emerita of Criminology, Law and Society at the University of California, Irvine. She was President of the Law & Society Association in 2000-2001, and is a Thorsten Sellin Fellow of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. She received the Law & Society Association’s Harry Kalven award in 2015. She has published widely in the fields of immigration and immigration lawmaking, and more recently on prisons and legal mobilization. An early book, Inside the State: The Bracero Program, Immigration, and the INS (1992), documented the internal dynamics of the INS in shaping the Bracero Program, and connected structural contradictions in the political economy to the details of agency decision making. Another book, Invitation to Law & Society, provides an accessible overview of the burgeoning field of socio-legal studies. Her most recent book (with Valerie Jenness), Appealing to Justice: Prisoner Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (2015), focuses on the grievance process in California prisons, and explores the contradictions and intersections between the logics of rights and punitive control.

Valerie Jenness

Valerie Jenness is a Professor in the Department of Criminology, Law and Society and in the Department of Sociology at the University of California, Irvine. Her research focuses on the politics of crime control and transformations in corrections and public policy. She is the author of four books, including, most recently, Appealing to Justice: Prisoner, Grievances, Rights, and Carceral Logic (with Kitty Calavita, University of California Press, 2015), and many articles published in sociology, law, and criminology journals. Her work has been honored with awards from the American Sociological Association, the Society for the Study of Social Problems, the Pacific Sociological Association, the Law and Society Association, the Western Society of Criminology, University of California, and Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Bigotry and Human Rights in North America.

Her studies of sexual assault in prisons, the management of prisoners with mental health concerns, transgender prisoners, and the inmate appeals system in prison have informed public policy. She has served on the California Governor’s Rehabilitation Strike Team to assist with the implementation of legislation designed to provide rehabilitation services to tens of thousands of California prisoners (AB 900). More recently, she has worked with the Los Angeles Police Department, the United States Courts for the 9th circuit, and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to develop and implement innovative policy.

Professor Dirk van Zyl Smit

Dirk van Zyl Smit is Professor of Comparative and International Penal Law at the University of Nottingham. From 1982 to 2005 he was Professor of Criminology at the University of Cape Town, where he was also Dean of the Faculty of Law from 1990 to 1995. In 2012 he was Global Visiting Professor at the New York University School of Law. In recent years he has also held appointments as a visiting professor at the Humboldt University in Berlin, the Paul Cezanne University in Aix en Provence and the Catholic University of Leuven.

He holds BA and LLB degrees from the University of Stellenbosch and a PhD from the University of Edinburgh. In 2008 he was awarded an honorary doctorate in law by the Ernst-Moritz-Arndt University of Greifswald in Germany. He has been an Alexander von Humboldt Fellow at the Max Planck Institute for Foreign and International Penal Law in Freiburg and a Senior Fulbright Research Fellow at the New York University School of Law. He is also an Advocate of the High Court of South Africa.

Dr Jamie Bennett

Jamie Bennett has worked in prisons since 1996 and held a number of senior positions. He is currently Governor of HMP Grendon & Springhill.

HMP Grendon is a unique establishment, being the only prison to operate entirely as a series of therapeutic communities. The work of Grendon has an international reputation in providing effective interventions for men who have committed serious offences and have personality disorders. HMP Springhill is an innovative open prison which helps men to prepare for their release and resettle into the community.

Jamie is editor of the Prison Service Journal and has published over 100 articles and reviews covering topics including: prisons and the media, social inequality and imprisonment, and the development of managerialism. He has produced three books: Understanding Prison Staff (ed with Ben Crewe and Azrini Wahidin Willan 2008), Dictionary of Prisons and Punishment (ed with Yvonne Jewkes Willan 2008) and The Prisoner (ed with Ben Crewe Routledge 2011). He is currently completing a PhD thesis entitled: The Working Lives of Prison Managers: An Exploration of Agency and Structure in the Late Modern Prison.

Niall Walsh

Niall is Manager of the 'Pathways Centre', and is involved with prison education and the education and support of prisoners post-release.

A graduate of the Trinity Access Programme at Trinity College Dublin, Niall holds a Degree in Social Science from Maynooth University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Adult and Community Education from Maynooth University, a Postgraduate Diploma in Education Management from Maynooth University and a Masters in Criminology from Dublin Institute of Technology. Niall is a founding member of the Prisoner Support Network and a member of the Irish Prison Service Research Panel.

Niall serves both on the board of directors of the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and also on the board of The Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders, (IASIO).

Hugh Chetwynd

Hugh Chetwynd grew up in South Africa and England. In April 1993, joined the Council of Europe (international organisation with 47 countries working on human rights, the rule of law and democracy, based in Strasbourg, France). From 1993-2002 he worked on criminal justice reform in Albania; abolition of the death penalty in Europe; training of legal professionals on the European Convention on Human Rights. He was Head of Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina from 2002-2005, working notably in fields of criminal justice (including prisons), human rights and education, and constitutional reform. From 2005 to present he works with the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT), assessing the treatment of persons deprived of their liberty in 47 countries (notably, prisons, police stations and immigration detention but also psychiatric institutions and social care home); worked on number of thematic issues such as solitary confinement, life-sentenced prisoners, immigration detention, combatting impunity, children in detention. See

Our Research

Prisons: the rule of law, accountability and rights (PRILA) examines accountability, the inspection and oversight of prisons. It seeks to provide an understanding of how inspection, oversight and accountability operates from the point of view of prison staff, people in prison, and staff of accountability bodies. PRILA uses legal and socio-legal research methods to understand how inspection, oversight and accountability is regulated and experienced, as well as its effects.

PRILA’s research questions:

PRILA will help us to understand:

  • How prisoners experience accountability structures, and rights;
  • How prison managers and prison officers/guards experience monitoring and external scrutiny;
  • How staff of bodies like Ombudsmen and inspectorates experience their work, and challenges in their work;
  • How a visit from an inspection and monitoring body is experienced;
  • What kinds of accountability structures exist in European prisons;
  • How types of accountability structures are related to other indicators of penal regimes, such as prison overcrowding; and
  • Whether there is a distinctive European way for accountability in prisons, by comparing European law with that of the United States and other jurisdictions.
  • Methods:

    There are five substantive work packages planned for the course of the project. The project runs from April 2016 to the end of March 2021.

  • PRILA will conduct legal and comparative analysis with the United States and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to assess the requirements and distinctiveness of European law (Work Package (WP) 1). It will use this to inform the interview guides and design of the quantitative work.
  • Under Prisoners' Experiences (WP2), the research team will examine and compare prisoners' experiences of accountability, inspection and oversight in Ireland and another European country. Sophie van der Valk is working with Prof Rogan on this part of the research in Ireland, while Dr Christine Morgenstern will work on the German situation.
  • Under Experiencing Scrutiny (WP3), the research team will examine the experiences of prison staff of accountability, inspection and oversight. Sarah Curristan and Ray O'Keeffe are working with Prof Rogan on this part of the research on the Irish dimension of the work, with Dr Christine Morgenstern examining Germany.
  • Under Accountability Work (WP4), Dr Eva Aizpurua and Prof Rogan will examine the typology of systems, the effects of accountability, inspection and oversight. The research team will also examine how staff of accountability bodies experience their work.
  • In Experiencing Inspection (WP5), Dr Ciara O'Connell and Prof Rogan will examine experiences of a visit from an international monitoring body.

  • News and Events

    The PRILA team is delighted to welcome Dr Ciara O'Connell, Dr Christine Morgenstern and Dr Eva Aizpurua.

    Dr O'Connell will examine the effects and experiences of a visit from an international prison monitoring body. Dr Morgenstern will examine experiences of oversight in German prisons, while Dr Aizpurua will examine the effects of oversight on prison outcomes as well as experiences of doing accountability work. You can follow the progress of their work, as well as that of the rest of the PRILA team, on this website and through @prila_tcd

    Ciara O’Connell is a human rights researcher with experience employing socio-legal research methods to examine how international human rights treaty-monitoring bodies impact the lives of vulnerable populations. She holds a PhD in Law from the University of Sussex (UK), and an LLM in International Human Rights Law from the Irish Centre for Human Rights. Most recently, she held a Postdoctoral Research Fellowship with the Centre for Human Rights in South Africa, and also worked for UNODC researching the nexus between organised crime and terrorism.

    Ciara’s previous research included gendered analysis of judgments and reparations emerging from the Inter-American and African regional human rights systems. Instrumental to this research were interviews she conducted across four Latin American countries to understand how actors involved in human rights litigation and implementation account for and respond to the different needs of different women. Her research can be found in publications such as Health and Human Rights, International Human Rights of Women (Springer, 2019) and the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.

    Eva Aizpurua earned her PhD in Criminology from the University of Castilla-La Mancha (Spain, 2016) and worked as a postdoctoral scholar al the University of Northern Iowa (USA, 2016-2018). Her main research interests include interpersonal violence, life in prison, and survey research methods.

    Christine Morgenstern works at the intersection between penal law, human rights and criminology. She studied law in Freiburg, Hamburg and San Sebastian. Her PhD thesis on international human rights standards for community sanctions and measures was published in 2002. She has been working as lecturer and research fellow for criminology and criminal law at the University of Greifswald for many years. She has been a visiting professor at the Free University Berlin and at the University Göttingen in 2017 and 2018.

    2012-2016 she was awarded a grant from the German Research Council to conduct a study on pre-trial detention in Europe. It was published in 2018 and earned her the German postdoctoral lecture qualification (Habilitation). Empirical follow-up research on pre-trial detention comparing law, practice and policies in seven European states (including Ireland and Germany) was funded by the European Commission 2017-2018.

    Christine’s research interests include penal theory, sentencing, law and practice of community sanctions and prison life. She is particularly keen on covering comparative and European aspects of these topics and contributing not only to European research but also to European Penal Policies.

    PRILA Post-Doctoral Research Fellow Position (Now closed)

    The School of Law, Trinity College Dublin, invites applications for a prestigious European Research Council-funded Post-Doctoral Research Fellow position. This role will be of interest to graduates of social sciences, socio-legal studies, law (particularly human rights law), political science and psychology (and related disciplines), with skills in empirical research. The deadline for receipt of applications is 27 June 2018 at 5 pm IST.

    PRILA Consultative Council meets on 15 June 2018

    Members of the Consultative Council to the PRILA project met at Trinity College Dublin on Friday, June 15th 2018. Members of the PRILA team presented their progress to date and the Council and team discussed matters such as the best environment for the oversight of prisons, prison culture and the role of scrutiny, and disseminating findings to prison staff and management. The Consultative Council comprises experts in penology, prison administration, education, and inspection and monitoring and provides guidance and advice to the team on the project. The PRILA team is very grateful for its work.

    Top Row, left to right: Sophie van der Valk, Christine Morgenstern, Ray O’Keeffe, Kitty Calavita, Jim Mitchell, Ian Cameron, Hugh Chetwynd. Front Row, left to right: Mary Rogan, Sarah Curristan, Niall Walsh, Valerie Jenness

    Prof. Mary Rogan speaks on Mandela Day about human rights in prisons and the role of inspection and monitoring

    On July 18th 2018, Mandela Day, Mary Rogan presented at the Global Brain Health Institute on human rights in prisons and the international human rights framework governing inspection and monitoring. When the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners were revised in 2015, they were renamed the Mandela Rules. Mandela Day was also extended to promote humane conditions of imprisonment and to value the work of prison staff. The Mandela Rules have substantially revised the UN position on the inspection and oversight of prisons.

    Prof. Mary Rogan to speak at HeadSpace2018 at Trinity College Dublin

    HeadSpace2018 was a two-day celebration of scientific and creative investigation into brain health and dementia, taking place on April 27 and April 28 at Trinity College Dublin. Mary Rogan presented work on the ageing process and the effects of incarceration, assessing inspection and monitoring as key mechanisms of protection in these environments.

    Prof Mary Rogan examines the penal policymaking process in an opinion piece in the Irish Independent, 28 March 2018

    'We have a rare window to reform justice system'

    PRILA Submits OPCAT Protocols to the Department of Justice and Equality

    The PRILA team responded to a request in March 2018 from the Department of Justice and Equality for their submission on potential models under OPCAT. See also the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture.

    Principle Investigator, Mary Rogan, discusses penal policymaking on RTE's Drivetime on 21 February 2018.

    Skip to 1 hour 15 mins in to hear what Mary had to say.

    PRILA mentioned in Oireachtas debate on the ratification of OPCAT 8th February 2018

    Minister Charlie Flanagan T.D. referred to submissions made by the PRILA research team when discussing the planned implementation of OPCAT in the Dáil on 8th February 2018, in response to question 161

    Principal Investigator chairs the Irish Penal Reform Trust's launch of a Report on Solitary Confinement

    The Irish Penal Reform Trust launched research the use of solitary confinement and restricted regimes in Ireland in the Hilton Kilmainham on 2 February 2018.

    Chaired by Professor Mary Rogan, other contributors included: Dr Agnieszka Martynowicz and Dr Linda Moore, authors of the research; Professor Barry Goldson; University of Liverpool; Michael O’Neill, Head of Legal Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; Martin Smyth, Director of Operations, Irish Prison Service; Clare Daly, T.D.; and Professor Ian O’Donnell, UCD.

    PRILA research presented to the Council of Europe body, the Council for Penological Cooperation on 8 November 2017

    Professor Mary Rogan, PI on the PRILA project, presented the PRILA team's research on inspection and monitoring of prisons to the Plenary Meeting of the Council for Penological Cooperation on November 7 2017, a Council of Europe body which is an advisory body to the Steering Committee on Crime Problems. Prof Rogan presented recommendations arising from the PRILA project on how the commentary to the European Prison Rules could be revised and strengthened in the areas of inspection and monitoring.

    Workshop: Dr. Kate O'Hara

    On 20 September 2017, Dr. Kate O'Hara presented a workshop on "Interviewing CJS participants: challenges and strategies" to the PRILA team in preparation for forthcoming data gathering.

    Public Lecture: Professor Jules Lobel, University of Pittsburgh

    Solitary Confinement and the Role of the Courts in the USA and Ireland was hosted on Monday 18th September 2017.

    Solitary confinement is under increasing scrutiny by international human rights bodies, penal policymakers, medical professionals, lawyers and the courts. The seminar considered how the courts have acted to regulate the use of solitary confinement in the prisons of the United States and Ireland.

    Presentation: Dr. Colette Barry

    On 7th September 2017 Collette Barry made a very informative and practical presentation to the group entitled “Researching Irish Prisons; Reflections from a Recent PhD”. The PRILA team had the opportunity to ask questions and discuss practical aspects of methodologies.

    PRILA Participation in Conference and Events

    Recent arising from PRILA topics has been presented at the following conferences:

    Sarah Curristan, Ray O'Keeffe, Sophie van der Valk and Mary Rogan, Panel presentation, Irish Criminology Conference, September 2018

    Prof Mary Rogan, Human rights in prison: promise and performance, Global Brain Health Initiative, Dublin, July 2018

    Prof Mary Rogan was a panellist at Behind the Headlines - the Future of Policing on 21 February 2018. The lectures are available to hear from the Trinity Long Room Hub.

    Prof. Mary Rogan spoke at the Probation Service of Northern Ireland Conference Justice in Transition on 15th March 2018.

    Mary Rogan, Inspection and monitoring of prisons, Ethics of Vulnerability Conference, UCD Centre for Ethics in Public Life, November 2017

    Mary Rogan, Revision of the commentary to the European Prison Rules: inspection and monitoring, Council for Penological Cooperation, Strasbourg, Council of Europe, November 2017

    Mary Rogan, European Human Rights Law and Death in Prison - Obligations & Reforms, Death in Punishment, Sheffield, 25 & 26 October 2017

    Mary Rogan, The evolving role of imprisonment in Ireland, Law Society Annual Human Rights Conference, Dublin, Law Society, October 2017

    Mary Rogan, Landmarks in Irish penal history, Parnell Summer School, Avondale, Co. Wicklow, Ireland, August 2017

    Mary Rogan, Sarah Curristan, Ray O'Keefe, Sophie van der Valk , Submission on the Proposed Inspectorate for Places of Detention, May 2017

    Mary Rogan, Sarah Curristan, Ray O'Keefe, Sophie van der Valk, Submission from PRILA to the Irish Prison Service on the Code of Ethical Behaviours, Ireland, 2017


    Conference papers and articles relating to PRILA's research can be found at:

  • Professor Mary Rogan’s profile page
  • PRILA Blog
  • Mary Rogan's Blog
  • The role of internal inspections in protecting human rights in prison, by Professor Mary Rogan - Penal Reform International Blog. This post examines the international human rights standards which govern internal prison inspections and the need for us to learn more about how these bodies can contribute to the promotion of human rights.
  • Mary Rogan and Sophie van der Valk, Ireland and OPCAT six years on: have things changed? 2017 URL

  • Discerning Penal Values and Judicial Decision Making: The Case of Whole Life Sentencing in Europe and the United States of America by Prof Mary Rogan in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice

  • Human rights approaches to suicide in prison: implications for policy, practice and research by Prof Mary Rogan in the Howard Journal of Crime and Justice

  • Contact PRILA

    Conference papers and articles relating to PRILA's research can be found at:

    Prisons: the Rule of Law, Accountability and Rights (PRILA)

    TriSS; Trinity Research in Social Science,

    Room 6001, Arts Building,

    Trinity College Dublin,

    The University of Dublin

    Dublin 2

    Ireland E: prila[at] Twitter: @prila_tcd This project has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No [679362]