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. 

Tracking the Needs and Service Provision for Women Ex-Prisoners

29th July 2013

The ACJRD has published a new report on research conducted with female prisoners serving short sentences in the Dóchas Centre.

UK: Targeted support for women offenders

27th March 2013

UK Justice Minister, Helen Grant, has published a report outlining her key priorities and strategic objectives for female offenders.

UK: Report assesses UK government compliance with the Bangkok Rules

13th March 2013

Women in Prison have published a report on the women’s custodial estate in the UK from 2011-2012, showing that little has fundamentally changed in the approach to women in prison since the publication of Baroness Jean Corston’s report in 2007.

UK: Guide launched to assist professionals in recognising and responding to the health and wellbeing needs of women offenders

27th February 2013

Mental health charity Together has launched a new common sense guide that offers criminal justice staff the tools to ensure women’s health and well-being needs are not missed.

Penal Reform International criticises CEDAW Committee’s lack of focus on women as defendants

22nd February 2013

Penal Reform International (PRI) criticised the CEDAW Committee's focus on women as victims, overlooking the rights of female defendants

UK: Prison Reform Trust releases three year strategy for reducing imprisonment of women

26th November 2012

Today the Prison Reform Trust in the UK launched a YouGov opinion poll which appears to demonstrate strong support for the use of health measures as an effective way to tackle women’s offending. The results coincide with the launch of PRT's own new strategy for reforming women's justice.

The Independent investigates: Mothers & Prison

17th September 2012

A week long Special 'Independent' investigation on mothers in prison.

Inquiry on girls: From courts to custody (UK)

20th August 2012

Report by Howard League for Penal Reform suggests girls are 'pigeon-holed into a criminal justice system designed for the male majority'.

Complying with UN guidelines for meeting the needs of female prisoners

14th August 2012

Prison Reform International provides a checklist and guidelines for policy makers and practitioners in relation to UN Bangkok Rules.

Scotland to build two new women's prisons to replace Corton Vale

14th August 2012

Overcrowded, unfit for purpose Corton Vale prison to be replaced with two new purpose-built units.

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



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