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. 

Guide to the Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Women Prisoners 23rd May 2019

Co-published by Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) and Penal Reform International (PRI), this guide comprises of research into rehabilitation and reintegration practices around the world specifically for women in prison. Read more

Penal Reform International launch Global Prison Trends 2018 21st May 2019

Global Prison Trends 2019 is the fifth edition in PRI’s annual flagship Global Prison Trends series which identifies topical developments and challenges in criminal justice, and prison policy and practice. Read more

‘Out of the Shadows’: Women with learning disabilities and the criminal justice system 15th May 2019

The Prison Reform Trust, in collaboration with Key Ring Living Support, have published a report that finds women with learning disabilities are at risk of becoming drawn into the criminal justice system due to failures to recognise their disability and a lack of appropriate support. Read more

TheJournal.ie: ‘Almost all women in Irish prisons are there for committing petty crime’ 23rd April 2019

IPRT comment and research was featured in an in-depth focus on the challenges faced by female prisoners in Ireland. Read more

Chronic issues in Ireland's female prisons demand urgent government action on community-based alternatives - IPRT 13th March 2019

ADVISORY: IPRT responds to the publication of the Visiting Committee Annual Reports 2017 for the Dóchas Centre and Limerick Prison, calling on the Government to deliver on previous policy commitments to improve responses to women in prison. Read more

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

IPRT Submission to UN Working Group on Women deprived of liberty 1st October 2018

IPRT made a submission to the UN Working Group on women deprived of liberty, focusing on women deprived of their liberty in the criminal justice system in Ireland. Read more

The 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

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