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. 

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

UK: Equal but Different? An Inspection of the Use of Alternatives to Custody for Women 14th October 2011

A joint report by the Inspectorate of Probation, Inspectorate of Prisons and the Crown Prosecution Service raises concern over the number of female offenders serving short term prison sentences and considers the extent to which non-custodial sanctions are being used in respect of female offenders in the UK. Read more

IPRT Briefing: Women in Detention 22nd August 2011 PDF documents

Women offenders generally present a lower risk to society, yet high numbers are being sent to prison for non-violent offences. This Briefing outlines the current provisions for female prisoners in Ireland, with eight clear recommendations for change. Read more

UK: 'Reforming Women's Justice' - new report from Women's Justice Taskforce 6th June 2011

A new report from the Women's Justice Taskforce and the Prison Reform Trust includes strong recommendations on how to reform the way in which women's offending is addressed, and makes a strong economic case for change. Read more

UK: Revolving Doors Agency - 'Counting the Cost' Report 13th May 2011

A new report by the Revolving Door Agency finds that an investment of £18 million per year in women’s centres could save almost £1 billion over five years. Read more

Women in the Criminal Justice System (ACJRD Conference Report) 17th February 2011

The ACJRD 13th Annual Conference Report was launched by the Hon. Mrs Justice Catherine McGuinness, who described it as an area of research and policy formation which doesn't receive a great deal of attention in Ireland. Read more

Inspector of Prisons publishes Women Prisoners' Supplement to Standards 3rd February 2011

The Inspector of Prisons, Judge Reilly, has published the Women Prisoners' Supplement to the 'Standards for the Inspection of Prisons in Ireland'. The document outlines the "particular obligations to women prisoners emanating from international obligations, domestic laws and best practice." Read more

UK: Women in the Penal System 18th January 2011

Baroness Corston reviews progress on work with women in the penal system. Read more

Northern Ireland: A Strategy to Manage Women Offenders 29th October 2010

The Department of Justice in Northern Ireland has published its first strategy for dealing with female offenders. Read more

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