By Jo Murphy-Lawless, via The Elephant Collective on Facebook.
In June last year, in the midst of Covid times, Keith Adams published a piece on the Centre for Faith and Justice
website entitled No Country for Poor Women
) where he examined data from two reports on poverty and prison conditions, the Irish Prison Service Annual Report 2019 (https://www.irishprisons.ie/wp-content/uploads/documents_pdf/IPS-Annual-Report-2019-Web.pdf
) and a report from the SVP entitled 'The Hidden Cost of Poverty' (https://www.svp.ie/getattachment/869467cb-2d60-4fe2-b612-a8c6e4357cdc/The-Hidden-Cost-of-Poverty.aspx
). He argued that these reports challenge us as a society to think hard about the interconnections between gender and poverty and the stark consequences for women caught in poverty when things go badly wrong.
Taken together, the reports lay out the following:
- The rates of committal to prison for women are increasing overall
- Even though women are more likely to be charged with non-violent crime - typically shop-lifting, receiving stolen goods and non-payment of fines - the rate of their being held in prison on remand is higher than for men
- Committal to prison for non-payment of fines alone has been escalating dramatically
- Women are commonly being sent to prison for very short sentences – 75% of women sent to prison in 2018 were serving three months or less
- All three major categories of crime committed by women centre on the root problem of living in poverty
- The SVP report estimates that the annual cost to the state of NOT dealing with the consequences of poverty ranges between €3bn and €7.2bn
When we look elsewhere at statistics on women and poverty (and a comprehensive database on poverty has been made far more difficult to put together since the independent statutory Combat Poverty Agency was abolished by the state in 2009), we learn that in 2019, single parent households with one or more children under the age of 18 had the highest at risk rate of poverty, 29.7 per cent
compared with 6.1 per cent
in two person households with one or more children under the age of 18 (CSO, 2020). (more…)