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From white-collar criminals to murderers: Rare glimpse inside women's prison

“You don’t expect to hear the sound of a crying baby in a prison”.

Image: Midas Productions

“EVERYTHING I HAD is gone.”

A two-part doc to be shown on RTÉ from tonight will take a stark look inside the Dóchas Centre for women, based in Mountjoy prison.

The Dóchas Centre is one of the better known Irish incarceration facilities, specifically built as it was for a female-only population. Of the 4,000+ prisoners in Irish jails, only 200 are women.

When Dóchas was first launched, it was hailed as a beacon of progress (its very name means ‘hope’). Accommodation is arranged in ‘houses’ catering for almost a dozen people and there are en-suite rooms, cooking facilities and other services to encourage the women to lead an “ordinary” life and retrain for their future outside its walls.

As director of Women on the Inside, Traolach Ó Buachalla, notes: “You don’t expect to hear the sound of a crying baby in a prison but female prisoners are allowed to keep their newborns with them – it’s a head-turner.”

However, a report published last autumn noted that overcrowding is a huge problem for the centre:

Source: Interim report on Dóchas Centre via Justice.ie

Media mentions of the centre has also often been associated with some of its more notorious inmates such as the Mulhall sisters and Catherine Nevin.

However, as this doc shows, the women imprisoned at Dóchas have been convicted for a wide range of crimes, from murder to white-collar crime, drug-running to burglary.

Source: Midas Productions

As one interviewee says:

It can be a comical place at times, and then sometimes it can be a sad and lonely place.

Source: Midas Productions

And from another:

It seems to be half a mad-home, and half a prison.
  • Women on the Inside screens on RTÉ One, tonight and next Monday, 15 September, both at 9.35pm.

Overcrowding at Dóchas women’s prison has led to “tension”>

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