Women in Detention

On average, women make up around 3.8% of the prison population, with a large number of committals concerning non-violent offences. Additionally, the majority are detained on short-term sentences. However, the impact of even short-term imprisonment on these women and their families is profound. The economic and social costs to society at large arising from the imprisonment of women are also significant.

Moreover, while overall prison numbers have stabilised in recent years, the numbers of women committed to prison have continued to accelerate. In 2017, there were 1,344 female committals, compared to 155 female committals in 1999. The rate of female prison committals has risen more rapidly than for males since 2011.

There continues to be significant numbers of women imprisoned for failing to pay court-ordered fines, despite the Fines (Payment and Recovery Act) 2014 which came into operation in January 2016. In 2017, 42% of female committals to prison were for non-payment of court-ordered fines – twice that of the comparable figure of men.

Major concerns remain in relation to overcrowding in both of the country’s female prisons – the Dóchas Centre and a female wing in Limerick Prison. The detention of women for immigration-related reasons is also a concern for IPRT. IPRT remains committed to working towards major policy change in relation to imprisonment of women in Ireland, with a central focus on the provision of alternatives to detention and open prison provision for women. 

Newstalk: 'Mary and the Joy' 4th November 2018

Newstalk documentary 'Mary and the Joy' features IPRT Executive Director Deirdre Malone discussing the importance of relationship-based care in Irish prisons. Read more

UK: Sentencers and sentenced: exploring knowledge, agency and sentencing women to prison 31st October 2018

The APPG on Women in the Penal System has published a report on its inquiry into the sentencing of women. Read more

Irish Times: Sharp increase in Irish prison population 6th August 2018

The Irish Times has published an article and an editorial detailing the sharp increase in Ireland’s prison population in 2018, following years of decline and stability. Read more

Newstalk: Time for change? Women and mothers in the Irish prison system 13th July 2018

Newstalk's Simon Tierney reports from the Dóchas Centre on the issues facing women and mothers in prison in Ireland. Read more

UK: Prison Reform Trust publishes ‘What about me?’ 9th July 2018

‘What about me?’ is essential research conducted by the Prison Reform Trust, detailing the impact on children when mothers are involved in the criminal justice system. Read more

UK: Report on Housing for Women in the Criminal Justice System 19th June 2018

The Prison Reform Trust (PRT) and Women in Prison (WiP) have published a report entitled ‘Home truths: housing for women in the criminal justice system'. Read more

UK: Still Dying on the Inside: Examining Deaths in Women's Prisons 8th May 2018

UK charity INQUEST published their report into deaths in women's prisons on the 1st May 2018. Read more

UK: Domestic Abuse as a driver to women's offending 4th December 2017

Prison Reform Trust (2017) “There’s a reason we’re in trouble” Domestic abuse as a driver to women’s offending. Read more

World Female Imprisonment List 2017 9th November 2017

The Institute for Criminal Research published the fourth edition of the World Female Imprisonment List, providing a comprehensive report on the number of women and girls in penal institutions worldwide. Read more

Irish Independent: Inside a Women's Prison 14th May 2017

Article on imprisonment of women in Ireland by Cathal McMahon. Read more

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