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. 

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

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

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