Irish Penal Reform Trust

Women in Detention

On average, women make up around 4.3% 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.

In 2019, there were 1,174 female committals, compared to 155 female committals in 1999. The rate of female prison committals has risen more rapidly than for males since 2011. In addition, 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 2019, 16.7% of female committals to prison were for non-payment of court-ordered fines – almost 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. 

Irish Examiner reports on unpublished prison chaplain reports

8th September 2020

The Irish Examiner has today reported on an unpublished prison chaplain report on Dóchas Centre for 2019, which is reported to find that that women in the Dóchas Centre are subject to chronic overcrowding, decreasing out-of-cell time, xenophobic abuse, and find it "next to impossible" for the women to book family visits, including with their children.

'Self-harm in Irish Prisons 2018' report published

24th August 2020

The second report from the Irish Prison Service Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) Project, has been published.

Probation Service Annual Report 2019

5th August 2020

The Probation Service Annual Report 2019 was published by the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee TD, on 5th August 2020.

UK: Human Rights Committee publishes report on the response to children whose mothers are in prison during the COVID-19 pandemic

3rd July 2020

The Committee finds that the right to family life of children whose mothers are in prison in England and Wales risks being breached, and proposes that the Government ends the blanket ban on children visiting prisons.

New project: IPRT Children and Families Initiative

21st May 2020

IPRT is excited to announce that we are embarking on a new three-year project on families of prisoners, aiming to reduce harm for children and families affected by imprisonment, with a particular focus...

IPRT responds to annual report from Irish Prison Service

24th June 2019

While positive reforms have been made in penal policy in recent years, an over-reliance on prison sentences within the judicial system means our prisons are becoming increasingly overcrowded.

UK: Lord Farmer publishes second review on the importance of family ties

18th June 2019

Following his 2017 review on the importance of family ties for men in prison, Lord Farmer has found that healthy relationships are a ‘must have’ when it comes to preventing women from reoffending.

Report of the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice

11th June 2019

The UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and in practice has published its thematic report on women deprived of liberty for the 41st session of the Human Rights Council.

Guide to the Rehabilitation and Social Reintegration of Women Prisoners

23rd May 2019

Co-published by Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ) and Penal Reform International (PRI), this guide comprises of research into rehabilitation and reintegration practices around the world specifically for women in prison.

Penal Reform International launch Global Prison Trends 2019

21st May 2019

Global Prison Trends 2019 is the fifth edition in PRI’s annual flagship Global Prison Trends series which identifies topical developments and challenges in criminal justice, and prison policy and practice.

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



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