Irish Penal Reform Trust

Women in Detention

On average, women make up around 3.8% 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 2020, there were 649 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 2020, 10% of female committals to prison were for non-payment of court-ordered fines – more than double the comparable figure of men (3.8%).

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. 

UK: “Maternal Imprisonment Polling Shows Clear Support for Better Services in the Community”

28th September 2021

Crest Advisory recently polled 2,500 members of the British public in order to assess attitudes regarding maternal imprisonment. 56% of those surveyed believed that the funding for 500 new prison places should be redirected to fund support services for women instead.

Penal Reform International: Short Guide to the European Prison Rules

27th September 2021

In this short guide, the key requirements of the European Prison Rules are highlighted by Penal Reform International, with an asterisk (*) placed next to any rule that was brought in after the 2020 revision.

UK: ‘Angels or Witches’ The Impact of Criminal Records on Women

8th March 2021

The report considers the post-conviction problems faced by women with criminal records.

Joined-up approach to mental health in the criminal justice system will improve outcomes and reduce reoffending – IPRT

4th March 2021

MEDIA ADVISORY: IPRT welcomes the publication of a new Probation Service research report on the prevalence of mental health problems among persons under probation supervision.

OpEd: State must stop using prison to fill gaps in care for women and girls on the margins

26th January 2021

The Irish Independent has published an opinion article by IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide discussing Ireland’s overreliance on imprisonment as a response to marginalised women.

Joint Call to Action to implement the UN Bangkok Rules

10th December 2020

IPRT was one of 83 global civil society organisations that joined the Penal Reform International 'Call to Action' urging governments to implement the UN Bangkok Rules in full.

Probation recidivism statistics

17th November 2020

The Central Statistics Office (CSO) has published statistics on three-year reoffending (recidivism) for those sentenced to probation in 2014, in conjunction with one-year reoffending rates for the years 2008-2016.

Reported Treatment of Prisoners and Chaplaincy in Dóchas Centre Alarming

25th September 2020

MEDIA ADVISORY: A joint statement from the Irish Penal Reform Trust and the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice in response to reports in the national press about the culture and environment endured by female prisoners and staff in the Dóchas Centre at Mountjoy.

Irish Examiner reports on unpublished prison chaplain reports

8th September 2020

The Irish Examiner has today reported on an unpublished prison chaplain report on Dóchas Centre for 2019, which is reported to find that that women in the Dóchas Centre are subject to chronic overcrowding, decreasing out-of-cell time, xenophobic abuse, and find it "next to impossible" for the women to book family visits, including with their children.

'Self-harm in Irish Prisons 2018' report published

24th August 2020

The second report from the Irish Prison Service Self-Harm Assessment and Data Analysis (SADA) Project, has been published.

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



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