Bacik calls for prison alternatives for minor offences

Alternatives to prison should be considered for women who commit minor offences, Senator Ivana Bacik claimed today.

Bacik said the government should adopt the findings of a 2007 report looking at vulnerable women in the UK prison system, which concluded that many should not be behind bars at all.

Carried out by Baroness Jean Corston, the report stated that only women who commit serious violent crimes, whose numbers are few, be kept in custody.

Alternatives should be sought for those who commit minor offences as many are mothers and the detention has a negative effect on family life.

Baroness Corston and Senator Bacik will this evening address a public seminar on the issue of women in prison and the latter said the Irish government should seriously consider the findings of the study.

“Women are a particularly vulnerable prison population and there is a strong case for abolishing prisons for them and replacing them with small custodial units for just a small number of people who have committed crimes of violence,” Senator Bacik said, in advance of her address.

“Jean Corston’s report has an important message for us in Ireland as well”

Senator Bacik said the government was currently considering increasing the capacity of Dochas, the women’s prison in the controversial development at Thornton Hall.

The current capacity is 85.

“We should be moving towards smaller custodial centres for women rather than more prisons,” Senator Bacik said.

“We’re going the wrong way. With Thornton Hall we’re proposing to build more prison places for women rather than reduce it.

“It is entirely against the thrust of the Corston report. She reported that having looked at all the evidence, that the women in prison in Britain, many of them didn’t need to be there and it was actually counter-productive locking them up,” Senator Bacik said.

Most of the women Baroness Corston met in the prisons she visited where mothers.

She was shocked by the fact that so many women had been imprisoned for minor offences which caused stress for their families, particularly their children.

The seminar, organised by the Jesuit Centre for Faith and Justice, will take place in the Law Library.

Early this afternoon Senator Bacik and Baroness Corston will meet with all female TDs and Senators.

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