On average, women make up around 4.2% 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.
In 2018, there were 1,005 female committals, compared to 155 female committals in 1999. The rate of female prison committals has risen more rapidly than for males since 2011. In addition, 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 2018, 10% 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.