Irish Penal Reform Trust

Re-designing the Pattern: Women and the Criminal Justice System

4th December 2013

The Irish Penal Reform Trust held a half-day seminar event focusing on community-based responses to offending by women on 4th December 2013 in the Wood Quay Venue, Dublin 8.  

Recent positive developments in reducing overall prison numbers masks the fact that, over the past decade, the numbers of women committed to prison have doubled - and continue to rise. Conditions for many women prisoners have deteriorated, while community-based alternatives for women offenders remain under-explored. 

This seminar explored alternative responses to offending by women that address the wide-ranging and often complex needs of women offenders and that reduce recidivism rates among women.

Minister of State with responsibility for Disability, Older People, Equality & Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch TD launched a new IPRT paper, Women and the Criminal Justice System - Towards a Non-Custodial Approach as part of the event.


Chair: Siobhán O'Donoghue, Chairperson of the National Women's Council of Ireland and Director of the Migrant Rights Centre of Ireland.


  • Scotland: Prof Gill McIvor of the University of Stirling, who will speak on recent developments in addressing offending by women in Scotland including the Commission on Women Offenders.
  • England & Wales: Sarah Anderson, Director of Research and Development, Revolving Doors (London) 
  • Northern Ireland: Jean O’Neill, Area manager, Inspire Women’s Project, Northern Ireland Probation Service.
  • Ireland: Dr Mary Rogan, Chair, IPRT


  • Mary O’Connor, Governor of the Dóchas Centre, Irish Prison Service
  • Suzanne Vella, Director of Operations, The Probation Service
  • Ailish Glennon, Senior Probation Officer, The Probation Service


The Saol Project ( closed the event in their own words. See here: (the poem shared at the event is on pg 8 )



Ms Kathleen Lynch TD, Minister of State, Department of Health and Department of Justice, Equality and Defence

Minister Lynch was appointed Minister of State for Disability, Equality, Mental Health and Older People in the Department of Health and the Department of Justice, Equality and Defence on 10th March 2011. She was elected to Cork Corporation in 1985 and first elected to Dáil Eireann in 1994. She was subsequently elected again in 2002 and has retained her seat since. Minister Lynch was a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Health, 2007, Joint Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights 2002-2007 and member of the Joint Committee on Enterprise and Small Business, 2002 - May 2006.

Prof. Gill McIvor, Professor of Criminology at the University of Stirling

Gill is Professor of Criminology at the University of Stirling, Scottish Centre for Crime and Justice Research Co-Director with responsibility for programme development, and visiting Professor at the Glasgow School of Social Work, University of Strathclyde. She was previously Professor of Criminology at Lancaster University and Professor of Social Work and Director of the Social Work Research Centre at the University of Stirling. Her research interests include alternatives to imprisonment (including specialist courts), young offenders and women who offend. Much of her work is policy related and/or comparative/international. Gill’s research includes an evaluation of the Scottish Drug Court and Youth Court pilots, women’s experiences after prison in Australia and the evaluation of the 218 Centre.

Ms Sarah Anderson, Director of Research and Development, Revolving Doors 

Sarah has been working at the English charity Revolving Doors, which focuses on offenders with multiple and complex needs, since January 2010 and has recently moved into the role of Director of Research and Development. At Revolving Doors she has undertaken a range of work focused on women in contact with the criminal justice system. She has also led on Revolving Doors’ work as part of the Offender Health Collaborative to develop an England-wide operating model for criminal justice liaison and diversion services on behalf of NHS England and the Department of Health in England. In 2011 she undertook a Churchill Fellowship to Australia to identify new and innovative approaches to supporting people with complex needs in contact with the justice system. Previously, she worked for two years as a prison housing caseworker with St Giles Trust before leaving to do a Masters in Criminal Justice Policy at the LSE, where she was awarded the Titmuss Prize.

Ms Jean O’Neill, Inspire Women’s Project, Northern Ireland Probation Service

Jean is Area Manager at the Inspire Women’s Project centre, and has recently taken up a part-time role within HMP Hydebank to develop services between the community and prison. She has previously worked as a Probation Officer for the Probation Board for Northern Ireland and the Merseyside Probation Service, where she worked both in the community and HMP Walton Prison. Upon return to Northern Ireland she led the establishment of the Inspire Women’s Project and developed alongside colleagues in the voluntary and community sector, the current INSPIRE Model for the Management of Women Offenders. Jean’s areas of interest over the past 21 years include working in partnership with the community and police in the management of Car Crime in West Belfast, establishing the PBNI assessment unit in the preparation of pre-sentence reports for Courts, and the development of Standards in relation to Probation Supervision. Over the past 9 years, much of her work has been dedicated to the development of services for women offenders. 

Dr. Mary Rogan, Lecturer at Dublin Institute of Technology and Chairperson of IPRT

Mary is a Barrister and Lecturer in Socio-Legal Studies at Dublin Institute of Technology where she teaches law, criminology and prison policy, as well as facilitating a number of community-based learning projects. She is a graduate of Trinity College Dublin and the University of Oxford. Her research interests span prison policy, prisoners' rights, the policy-making process, and the politics of punishment. Mary has published extensively on all of these topics. Mary is the Chairperson of the Irish Penal Reform Trust and is also a member of the Board of the Irish Association for the Social Integration of Offenders.


IPRT Position Paper:

Women and the Criminal Justice System - Towards a Non-Custodial Approach

This new Position Paper arises from a submission to the Irish Prison Service and the Irish Probation Service in the development of a Strategy for Women Offenders. The original submission was prepared by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) and the Women in Prison Reform Alliance (WIPRA), of which IPRT is a member.

This Position Paper was edited by Liza Costello, and is based on research carried out by Christina Quinlan and Jane Mulcahy.

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



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