2nd March 2023
As the numbers of women in prison have increased, so have the number of children affected by maternal imprisonment. A new report sheds light on the devasting effects this has on children and families.
Today, Thursday 2 March, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has launched their new study on maternal imprisonment in Ireland. The report examines the numbers and experiences of mothers imprisoned in Ireland, and of their children. As the number of women in prison in Ireland reached 214 at the end of February 2023, using the 1.3 parenting rate this equates to approximately 278 children estimated to be impacted by maternal imprisonment in the country.
The report launched today makes recommendation for actions that would reduce the harm caused to these children and families, and particularly for reducing female imprisonment. The need to consider the impact on children when sentencing mothers, and particularly consider non-custodial measures when sentencing mothers, were named in the report as part of the 29 recommendations.
The report further makes clear that various government actors, including the Department of Justice, the Department of Children, Equality, Disability, Integration and Youth, and the Irish Prison Service, have a key role to play in reducing the harm caused to children of sentenced mothers. Actions such as conducting more relevant research in the area, collecting more data and raising awareness of the issues were attributed to them.
IPRT Acting Executive Director, Molly Joyce comments:
“There is considerable harm caused to children when their mother – who is often the primary carer – is imprisoned. Imprisonment of a child’s primary caregiver can have an extremely detrimental impact on the child, with parental imprisonment recognised as one of 10 ‘Adverse Childhood Experiences’ (ACEs) which can have a lasting impact on people into adulthood.
As it stands, our various services are failing to adequately safeguard the rights and needs of children and families of prisoners, and action is needed to provide support to these families.
This scoping study particularly highlights the need for action across government to reduce the negative impacts of maternal imprisonment on children.”
IPRT also launched their new project on children and families of people in prison at the event. The overarching goal of this project is to tackle intergenerational cycles of disadvantage and imprisonment through supporting family relationships and return from prison to the community. This will be done through design and delivery of a detailed programme of strategic actions, focused on bringing about and embedding long-term change.
IPRT’s new Project Coordinator, Ashling Tobin, will be responsible for progressing the work of the existing Action for Children and Families of Prisoners Network and advocating for implementation of recommendations in IPRT’s Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland (2021) report and today’s report Maternal Imprisonment in Ireland: A Scoping Study (2023).
For all media enquiries, contact Michelle: 086 043 3060 or firstname.lastname@example.org
The report is available at https://www.iprt.ie/iprt-publications/maternal-imprisonment-in-ireland-a-scoping-study/.
Speakers at the event include; Dr Fiona Donson, Dr Niall Muldoon (Ombudsman for Children), Ryan O’Rourke, Áine Morris (Senior Probation Officer), Fergal Landy (CEO of the National Forum of Family Resource Centres), Caoilfhionn Gallagher KC (Ireland’s UN Special Rapporteur on Child Protection) and report authors Vicki Prais & Sharon Critoph.
IPRT’s most recent report on parental imprisonment is available here: Piecing It Together: Supporting Children and Families with a Family Member in Prison in Ireland (2021)
Website for the Action for Children and Families of Prisoners Network
IPRT recent media release on overcrowding in prisons here.
Current numbers of people in prison are here.
Prisons for women in Ireland are hugely over capacity – as of 28 February 2023 Limerick female prison was at 161% capacity and Dochás was at 116% capacity.
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. www.iprt.ie | @iprt
See IPRT press release featured in the news here.