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. 

Under the Radar: Women with borderline personality disorder in prison 14th September 2010 PDF documents

One in four female prisoners struggle with borderline personality disorder, yet their needs are going unnoticed in the UK justice system, according to a report published by the Centre for Mental Health. Read more

Irish Examiner: Women in immigration-related detention suffer racist abuse from inmates 4th August 2010

Findings of a new report highlight that many female foreign nationals being held in the Dóchas Centre are subject to racial abuse Read more

Jailed women to get taste of freedom near their families 14th July 2010

Female prisoners in northern Scotland are being given the chance to live in open conditions close to their communities under a new scheme being launched next week. Read more

Homeless woman in forced release from Dóchas Centre 18th June 2010

'The Irish Times' has reported on a case of a woman prisoner who, after being granted Temporary Release, refused to leave the Dóchas Centre in Dublin as she had no home to go to, writes Agnieszka Martynowicz. Read more

Sunday Tribune: 'I love it here at Dóchas' 9th May 2010

In an article in the Sunday Tribune, Ali Bracken, describes the regime, as she found it on a recent visit, in the Dóchas Centre (Mountjoy women's prison.) Read more

Mentoring, Social Capital and Desistance: A Study of Women Released from Prison 21st April 2010

New research explores the use of mentoring programmes in aiding reintegration of ex-prisoners. Read more

NI: Addressing Offending by Women 19th April 2010

A new literature review by Dr Una Convery examines women offenders’ needs and approaches adopted towards women in terms of policy and practice to address their offending. It is intended to help inform the development of best practice in the approaches adopted towards women who offend in Northern Ireland. Read more

Today FM: Women in Prison 13th April 2010

IPRT's Liam Herrick on The Last Word discussing the issue of women in prison. Read more

Addressing Women Offenders in Northern Ireland 14th January 2010

This article outlines the problems for women offenders in Northern Ireland and describes the first new innovative project that provides a variety of programmes to address the individual needs for women offenders, the Inspire Women’s Project. Read more

Compassionate release A strategy to support rather than imprison vulnerable women is on the table – but is it too little too late? 30th September 2009

The article outlines the measures now being reviewed by the government that Baroness Corston recommended in the women's prison system over two years ago. Read more

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