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Governor's resignation yet another alarm call for Minister

26th April 2010


The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has today expressed deep concern at the resignation of Kathleen McMahon, Governor of the Dóchas Centre. The issues cited by the Governor on her resignation are worrying in the extreme, and IPRT is calling on both prison management and the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform to take responsibility for the issues of overcrowding in the prison and the consequent impact on prison regime identified by Governor McMahon.

Speaking today, Executive Director Liam Herrick said:

“This unprecedented public gesture by a prison governor sounds a clear alarm call for government that even our most progressive prison can no longer achieve its stated purpose. If the Governor of a prison says that she cannot do her job under these conditions, then the onus is on Government to address the issues of policy that have precipitated the growing overcrowding crisis in our prisons.

“Much has been achieved in the past ten years in what is a progressive and modern prison, and this is now threatened by a failure of government policy. Kathleen McMahon has taken a brave step for the staff and prisoners of the Dóchas Centre and it is critical now that this resignation is a watershed for policy towards women offenders.”

In December 2009, the Women in Prison Reform Alliance, of which IPRT is a member, made a detailed submission to the Minister for Justice calling for a comprehensive review of policy and practice in relation to women who come into the criminal justice system. We believe that such a review will identify effective and cheap non-custodial options for many categories of women offender, ultimately leading to a reduction in the need for secure imprisonment.  To date we have not received a response from the Minister to this proposal.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with IPRT Executive Director Liam Herrick, please contact:

Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust

T: + 353 1 874 1400           E: communications@iprt.ie


  1. The Dóchas Centre, the female prison on the Mountjoy prison site, has until recently offered the most progressive regime in an Irish prison. However, chronic overcrowding at the prison, which has run at around 49% above capacity for the past 12 months, has seriously impacted on rehabilitative treatment and services available to the women there detained.
  2. On 14th April 2010, there were 130 women in custody in the Dóchas women’s prison, which was designed to hold 85; this represents over 50% over capacity. 16% were sharing cells with 2 or more others, with one cell holding 5 women. Numbers have been as high as 137. (Source: Minister for Justice, Parliamentary Question, 20th April 2010)
  3. On 14th April 2010, there were 23 prisoners held in Limerick female prison, which has a design capacity of 10. Of these, 9 women were sharing with 2 others. (Source: Minister for Justice, Parliamentary Question, 20th April 2010)
  4. IPRT recently raised the issue of overcrowding in women’s prisons in a press release: IPRT calls for urgent review of imprisonment of women (13th April 2010) See: http://www.iprt.ie/contents/1620
  5. The Women in Prison Reform Alliance (WPRA) is made up of a number of organisations and individuals concerned with women’s rights and the rights of prisoners; members of the alliance include IPRT, the National Women’s Council of Ireland, the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, Mercy Justice Office, Dominican Justice Office and Dr Christina Quinlan.
  6. Upcoming IPRT activities include the launch a report on the reintegration of ex-offenders in Ireland (May 2010), and a large conference on how to reduce crime through justice reinvestment (Sept 2010.)
  7.   The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.
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