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. 

UK: 'PPO’s learning lessons bulletin: self-inflicted deaths among female prisoners’ 28th March 2017

UK Prisons and Probation Ombudsman Nigel Newcomen has highlighted a “lack of concerted and sustained action” following a rise in the number of suicides among female prisoners. Read more

UK, Prison Reform Trust: ‘Fair Cop? Improving outcomes for women at the point of arrest’ 17th March 2017

Discussion paper by Dr. Thomas Guiney and Jenny Earle that provides solutions, and examples of positive initiatives being delivered by police forces to tackle low level, non-violent crime committed by women, in the UK. Read more

Ireland’s unequal treatment of women in the criminal justice system raised with the U.N. by IPRT 14th February 2017

ADVISORY: IPRT has raised Ireland's unequal treatment of women within the criminal justice system with U.N. CEDAW. Read more

IPRT Submission in Advance of the Examination of Ireland’s combined sixth and seventh periodic reports under CEDAW 13th February 2017

IPRT made a submission in advance of the examination of Ireland’s combined sixth and seventh periodic reports under CEDAW in January 2017. Read more

Norway: ‘Women in Prison: A Thematic Report about the conditions for female prisoners in Norway’ 20th January 2017

'Women in Prison' is the first thematic report published by the Norwegian Parliamentary Ombudsman under its UN mandate as the national preventive mechanism against torture and ill-treatment. Read more

UK: Report on the relationship between female offending and homelessness 28th September 2016

A report published by the Prison Reform Trust and Women in Prison states that upon release six out of ten women do not have homes to go to. Read more

England and Wales: Restorative Justice for Women in the Criminal Justice System 8th April 2016

A new research report by the Restorative Justice Council makes a series of recommendations for both practitioners and policy-makers on how to improve access to, and the experience of, restorative justice for females who have offended. Read more

CEDAW asks Irish government questions on women in prison 21st March 2016

On Wed 16th March, CEDAW (Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women) published its 'List of Issues' for the Irish Government prior to the submission of the combined sixth and seventh periodic reports of Ireland. Read more

UK: Report into the distinct needs of young adult women in custody 26th February 2016

Prisons are failing to meet the distinct needs of young adult women (aged 18-24) and they should be treated differently to older women in custody, according to new research published by the Transition to Adulthood Alliance (T2A). Read more

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

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