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.
13th April 2010
IPRT's Liam Herrick on The Last Word discussing the issue of women in prison.
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.
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.
23rd September 2009
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.
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.
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.
13th March 2007
The influential Corston Report examined the issue of women behind bars, read the report and associated articles.
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.