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 2021, there were 487 women committed to prison, compared to 155 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 2021, 8% of female committals to prison were for non-payment of court-ordered fines – double the comparable figure for men (4%).

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. 

Invitation to Tender: A Scoping Study on Maternal Imprisonment in Ireland

11th July 2022

The deadline has now passed to submit a tender.

All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform meeting on women in prison

6th July 2022

The third meeting of the All-Party Oireachtas Group on Penal Reform took place on Wednesday 6 July 2022 in the AV Room of Leinster House. The focus of the meeting was the imprisonment of women.

Alternative Report on Ireland’s Fifth Review under ICCPR

30th May 2022

IPRT welcomed the opportunity to provide this alternative report to the UN Human Rights Committee on Ireland’s fifth review under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Visiting Committee Annual Reports 2020

9th March 2022

IPRT notes the publication of the first Visiting Committee reports that relate to the pandemic period.

IPRT Submission to the 70th Pre-Sessional Working Group of the CESCR

7th January 2022

This is the Irish Penal Reform Trust’s first submission to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The submission makes the overarching point that Ireland is over-reliant on imprisonment as a response to social issues and socio-economic disadvantage.

UK: The Impact of Community Support on Diverting Women from the Criminal Justice System

21st November 2021

A new report by Advance details the findings of their research on diverting women from the criminal justice system, and some key recommendations. It also explains the work of the Women's Diversion Service, whose goal is to allow women to address the circumstances that led them to commit offences.

UK: Counting the Cost of Maternal Imprisonment

25th October 2021

This research found that a deep distrust of local authority social services, compounded by poor communication and information sharing, forms a significant barrier to engaging mothers with services that could help prevent them from offending and support prolonged desistance.

UK: Motherhood Challenged

18th October 2021

This executive summary of doctoral research by Dr Lucy Baldwin is based on in-depth research with 43 criminalised mothers, recording their experiences from their early lives, contact with the criminal justice system, prison and release.

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.

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