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Overcrowding at Dóchas women's prison has led to "tension throughout" the centre

The report by Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly found that the centre has consistently operated above its capacity.

Women in the Dochas Centre Female Prison in Mountjoy sit their Leaving Cert.
Women in the Dochas Centre Female Prison in Mountjoy sit their Leaving Cert.
Image: Julien Behal/PA Wire

A REPORT INTO the Dóchas Centre women’s prison at Mountjoy has found that overcrowding was “the single greatest problem associated with the centre”.

The report by Inspector of Prisons Judge Michael Reilly found that the centre has consistently operated above its capacity with a check in June of this year finding that 141 prisoners were housed there when the maximum should have been 105.

Limerick Prison is the only other facility for women prisoners in the country with 24 places, meaning that the maximum number of prison spaces for women in the state is 129.

The report said that overcrowding led to “arguments between women being a constant feature” and “tension throughout the centre where the slightest thing can spark a major altercation”.

Reilly said that the vast majority of women committed to prison are done so for petty offences and questioned the appropriateness of prison in such cases.

“A significant number of women who end up in the Dóchas Centre have experienced childhood sexual abuse, abuse in their adult life, indifference and neglect. Punishment is not a new experience for them,” he added.

The report also details that homelessness is a significant problem for women prisoners, with many women already having experienced instability in accommodation.

“A significant number of women who leave the Dóchas Centre have no accommodation or at best have temporary accommodation, ” according to the report.

In a comment on the operation of the Dóchas centre, Reilly said that, “It could be said that the centre had, to a degree, lost its way”.

This, he noted, was “not to say that prisoners were unsafe” or that management and officers were not sympathetic to the needs of the prisoners.

Read the report in full here.

Read: Big increase in number of women being sent to jail >

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Rónán Duffy

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