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.