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. 

Today FM: Women in Prison

13th April 2010

IPRT's Liam Herrick on The Last Word discussing the issue of women in prison.

Addressing Women Offenders in Northern Ireland

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.

Compassionate release A strategy to support rather than imprison vulnerable women is on the table – but is it too little too late?

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.

Orphans of Justice: A Legal Analysis

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.

England & Wales: Ministers predict dramatic fall in number of women in prison

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.

Working Notes: Women's Prisons in Ireland

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.

UK: Corston Report

13th March 2007

The influential Corston Report examined the issue of women behind bars, read the report and associated articles.

HSE Report – Hazardous Journeys to Better Places

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.

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



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