Irish Penal Reform Trust

OpEd: State must stop using prison to fill gaps in care for women and girls on the margins

26th January 2021

The Irish Independent has published an OpEd by IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide discussing Ireland’s overreliance on imprisonment as a response to marginalised women.

The OpEd examines gender discrimination in the use of imprisonment and the complex needs of the majority of women held in Irish prisons. 

"An estimated 85pc of women in prison have addictions, and 97pc of women in the Dóchas Centre are on prescription medication.

In 2019, a young mother who could not raise €100 bail in court, died in hospital having self-harmed in a prison cell nine days earlier. She should not have been in prison.

There is a very high prevalence of mental illness, disability, self-harm, and experiences of trauma, sexual violence, domestic violence, and childhood sexual abuse among women in prison. Homelessness is another common factor.

In Ireland in 2021, prisons are effectively the only place where some of the most marginalised women with complex needs can get wraparound supports and shelter.

Let there be no mistake, we continue to disproportionately punish poor and marginalised women. This treatment of women has not been consigned to Ireland’s history."

Read the OpEd in full here on

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.



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