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The Disproportionate Increase of Female Prisoners in Ireland and the Gap between Policy and Practice

The practice of sentencing of female offenders in Ireland has been criticised by the United Nations for failing to adequately implement policy to prevent the growing number of committals to prison. Research has shown that the characteristics of the typical female offender often include certain vulnerabilities, leading them to have greater and more varied criminogenic needs than their male counterparts. Procedural fairness must balance with the fairness of the substantive sentence. The effect of a sentence can produce different results where the same punishment aim is pursued for both males and females. Whilst consistency of punishment is the objective standard sought across equally culpable offender groups, proportionality considers the subjective effect of that punishment on the individual offender. This research aims to investigate the observed lacuna between policy and practice, and seeks to identify methods to prevent the number of females receiving prison sentences from increasing disproportionately.

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