The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Reilly, has published the 'Women Prisoners' Supplement' to the Standards for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland. The document outlines the particular obligations to women prisoners emanating from international obligations, domestic laws and best practice.
Key points include:
- Recommendations around security level assessments of women prisoners. Currently all women prisoners in Ireland are held together in medium-security prisons; high risk women prisoners are accommodated with women prisoners posing little or no risk. There is no open prison option for women.
- The provision of services for the particular needs of women prisoners who have suffered physical, mental or sexual abuse.
- Emphasis on the best interests of the child with relation to prisoners' children. To this end, visits/contact with children cannot be withheld as punishment as this would not be in the best interest of the child.
- The need for child protection policies and equivalence of care for children in prison.
- Recommendation that non-resident foreign national women prisoners are transferred at the earliest opportunity to their home country, where the prisoner consents (particularly those who have minor children in their home country)
- Need for pre-release supports, with particular regard to the health, welfare and psychological needs of the women prisoners.
- On 25th January 2011, there were 179 women detained in Irish prisons, representing 3.9% of the total prison population on that day.
- 143 women were held in the Dóchas Centre, which has a design capacity of 85 and an official bed capacity of 105.
- 36 women were held in Limerick female prison, which has a design capacity of 24 and an official bed capacity of 34. Conditions in Limerick female prison are substantially inferior to those in Dóchas, which was considered a model prison until recent overcrowding and consequent impact on regimes.