IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Women in Detention

Women make up a very small proportion of those who appear before the courts on criminal charges in Ireland and of those who are imprisoned. On average, women make up around 3.5% of the prison population, with a large number of committals concerning non-violent offences. Additionally, the majority of sentences are short-term (up to a year). 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 - an increase of 8.9% in 2013 on 2012 figures - including significant numbers imprisoned for failing to pay court-ordered fines. In 2013, 83% of female sentenced committals were for failure to pay court-ordered fines.

Major concerns remain in relation to overcrowding in the Dóchas Centre and the inadequate conditions of women prisoners in Limerick Prison, and also in relation to immigration detention. Above all, 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.

IPRT is a member of the Women in Prison Reform Alliance, which is committed to advancing the protection of the rights of women in the criminal justice system.

England & Wales: Preventing unnecessary criminalisation of women. 14th July 2015

The All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) with support from The Howard League for Penal Reform has produced a report on the inquiry into preventing unnecessary criminalisation of women. Read more

Scotland: Further developments in the treatment of female offenders 23rd June 2015

Following the setting aside of earlier plans to create a large prison to house female offenders, Scotland has now announced plans to develop a community-based approach to custody for female offenders, as well as increased use of alternatives to custody. Read more

Scotland: New women's prison scrapped in favour of small community-based centres 26th January 2015

Plans for a new women's prison in Scotland have been scrapped, in favour of "smaller regional and community-based custodial facilities across the country". Read more

RTÉ: Women on the Inside 5th September 2014 YouTube

A new two-part documentary series, filmed behind the walls of Ireland's women prisons, depicts life inside - tune in on Mon 8th Sept and Mon 15th Sept. Read more

“Proportionate, informed and timely interventions designed to meet the needs of women”- Prison Reform Trust 27th March 2014

The Prison Reform Trust published “Brighter Futures: Working together to reduce women’s offending”. This briefing highlights the specific needs of women in contact with the criminal justice system and profiles existing initiatives and partnerships within the United Kingdom that seek to deal more effectively with women’s offending. Read more

The Joint Probation Service & Irish Prison Service Strategy: "An Effective Response to Women who Offend" 6th March 2014

The Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service published their joint strategy on female offenders today. Read more

IPRT Position Paper 10: Women in the Criminal Justice System 5th December 2013

Towards a non-custodial approach Read more

Re-designing the Pattern: Women and the Criminal Justice System 4th December 2013

SEMINAR: Minister of State Kathleen Lynch TD launched a new IPRT paper on Wed 4th Dec 2013, entitled 'Women and the Criminal Justice System - Towards a Non-Custodial Approach' as part of a half-day seminar on women in the criminal justice system. Read more

Tracking the Needs and Service Provision for Women Ex-Prisoners 29th July 2013

The ACJRD has published a new report on research conducted with female prisoners serving short sentences in the Dóchas Centre. Read more

UK: Targeted support for women offenders 27th March 2013

UK Justice Minister, Helen Grant, has published a report outlining her key priorities and strategic objectives for female offenders. Read more