I am advised by the Director General that the recently published Irish Prison Service Strategic Plan 2012-2015 contains a commitment to develop a specific action plan to address the particular needs of women offenders.
The strategic plan for women offenders and those at risk of coming into custody is being prepared in collaboration with the Probation Service and will address the issues highlighted by the Deputy including diversion from custody as well as measures that could be adopted to improve the outcomes for those women for whom the courts determine that a custodial sentence is warranted due to the nature of the offence. The Irish Prison Service recognises the important role that the statutory and voluntary sector plays in assisting women offenders re-integrate back into society and recently held a multi-agency meeting with the various service providers to draw on this knowledge and expertise in relation to the development of its strategic plan and also to explore how co-operation across the various agencies might be improved and strengthened in the interest of women offenders.
Both the Probation Service and the Irish Prison Service are committed to developing a new strategy for the sentence management of women offenders. This commitment is reflected in both organisation's 3 year Strategy Statements. A joint Steering Group has met and has charged a subgroup to draw up an implementation strategy which will be presented by the end of August. All matters, including open prison facilities and residential therapeutic centres, are available for consideration by the Steering Group.