24th October 2023
In a Letter to the Editor responding to the news regarding the launch event at Limerick Prison, IPRT Executive Director, Saoirse Brady, welcomes developments at Limerick Women's Prison but says diversion ought to be the priority.
Read the Letter to the Editor on the Irish Examiner website here.
A copy of the letter is available below.
"I welcome the enhanced conditions at the new Limerick Women’s Prison opened by the Minister for Justice last week — ‘It’s a great move forward for society’: Limerick Prison opens new luxury women’s wing' (Irish Examiner, October 18). The standards at Limerick prison will afford women the rights and the dignity that they deserve, and we should aspire to those standards across the prison estate.
However, it’s a far cry from the inhumane conditions in prisons such as Mountjoy, as outlined in the Office of Inspector of Prisons Annual Report 2022 earlier this month.
The only other women’s prison in the State, the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy, was at 120% capacity on the same day the new Limerick prison was opened.
While the new, state-of-the-art accommodation is welcome, we must not forget that this is still a high security prison. New facilities for mothers and their babies at Limerick prison will help women bond with their baby, but the de facto position should be to explore every possible alternative before imprisoning a pregnant woman.
The Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2022 shows an increase in the percentage of women committed to prison, with women making up 11% of the prison population. The Probation Service Annual Report 2022 also indicated that it dealt with an increased number of women in 2022. This would suggest that more women are in the criminal justice system overall.
Just because we have more places in prisons doesn’t mean we should fill them. Diverting women — and also men — away from prison where possible should be the priority.
We certainly shouldn’t be creating more prison spaces or increasing capacity. There has been established cross-party support for more than a decade to reduce the number of people in prison yet last year we saw a 12% increase.
State investment is better spent upgrading poor-quality facilities and on community-based sanctions for less serious offences. Or better yet, invest more in preventative measures to keep people out of prison in the first place."
Irish Penal Reform Trust