IPRT - Irish Penal Reform Trust

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Women in Detention

Women make up a very small proportion of those who appear before the courts on criminal charges in Ireland and of those who are imprisoned. 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, including significant numbers imprisoned for failing to pay court-ordered fines. In 2015, 89.9% of female sentenced committals to prison in Ireland were for failure to pay court-ordered fines.

Major concerns remain in relation to overcrowding in the Dóchas Centre and the inadequate conditions of women prisoners in Limerick Prison, and also in relation to immigration detention. 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.

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

Orphans of Justice: A Legal Analysis 23rd September 2009 PDF documents

Subtitled "In search of the best interests of the child when a parent is imprisoned", this paper analyses the approach of courts in a number of jurisdictions. Read more

England & Wales: Ministers predict dramatic fall in number of women in prison 2nd August 2009

An article in 'The Observer' reports on an increase in funding for alternative punishments for female offenders, and a drive to find ways of helping those women at risk of offending. Read more

Working Notes: Women's Prisons in Ireland 31st December 2008

Links to a number of articles dealing with women in detention published in 'Working Notes', the Journal of the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice. Read more

UK: Corston Report 13th March 2007

The influential Corston Report examined the issue of women behind bars, read the report and associated articles. Read more

HSE Report – Hazardous Journeys to Better Places 31st March 2006

An eighteen-month study conducted on drug-using women admitted to The Dochas Centre has identified several key issues regarding their care before, during and after admittance. Read more