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: Guide launched to assist professionals in recognising and responding to the health and wellbeing needs of women offenders 27th February 2013

Mental health charity Together has launched a new common sense guide that offers criminal justice staff the tools to ensure women’s health and well-being needs are not missed. Read more

Penal Reform International criticises CEDAW Committee’s lack of focus on women as defendants 22nd February 2013

Penal Reform International (PRI) criticised the CEDAW Committee's focus on women as victims, overlooking the rights of female defendants Read more

UK: Prison Reform Trust releases three year strategy for reducing imprisonment of women 26th November 2012

Today the Prison Reform Trust in the UK launched a YouGov opinion poll which appears to demonstrate strong support for the use of health measures as an effective way to tackle women’s offending. The results coincide with the launch of PRT's own new strategy for reforming women's justice. Read more

The Independent investigates: Mothers & Prison 17th September 2012

A week long Special 'Independent' investigation on mothers in prison. Read more

Inquiry on girls: From courts to custody (UK) 20th August 2012

Report by Howard League for Penal Reform suggests girls are 'pigeon-holed into a criminal justice system designed for the male majority'. Read more

Scotland to build two new women's prisons to replace Corton Vale 14th August 2012

Overcrowded, unfit for purpose Corton Vale prison to be replaced with two new purpose-built units. Read more

Complying with UN guidelines for meeting the needs of female prisoners 14th August 2012

Prison Reform International provides a checklist and guidelines for policy makers and practitioners in relation to UN Bangkok Rules. Read more

Ten reasons for a gender-specific approach to criminal justice policy (USA) 30th July 2012

A recent report from the National Resource Centre for Justice Involved Women (NRCJIW) in the United States outlines the main reasons why gender-specific criminal justice policies make sense. Read more

Angiolini Commission on Women Offenders 3rd May 2012

A report recently published in Scotland provides a comprehensive overview of the distinct needs of women in detention, and provided a practical roadmap for radical and effective change. Read more

‘Hear and Now’: Women in the criminal justice system making changes in their lives. 12th January 2012

This report, published by 'Women in Prison' evaluates the different projects operated by the organisation, highlighting the positive outcomes of women specific support services. Read more

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