Jailed women ‘have been homeless, abused’

PRELIMINARY data of a study into homeless women and their experiences has found women who have been jailed have all experienced domestic violence at some point in their lives.

Homeless Women and Incarceration, a report being compiled by Dr Paula Mayock and Sarah Sheridan of Trinity College Dublin, is looking at the experiences of 60 women.

Of those, 48 have already been interviewed, and in a sample of 11 women who had spent time in prison it was found that all of the women had suffered domestic violence.

Six of the 11 women had experienced intimate partner violence, while all 11 had either misused drugs or were drug dependent, with heroin and alcohol the substances most commonly abused.

In addition, all 11 women had experienced mental health problems, and seven of the women had felt suicidal at some point in their lives, while six had harmed themselves and four had spent time in psychiatric institutions.

All had poor physical health and two were HIV positive.

Seven of the women were mothers, although none were currently caring for their children.

The average length of time spent homeless by these women who had also been in jail was 10 years and six months, and many of them had slept rough for prolonged periods of time.

In many cases the women simply moved between prison and homelessness and there was a high rate of repeat offending.

The report, one of a number featured in a publication by the Association for Criminal Research and Development, states the “Housing First” model being pursued by the homelessness authorities could potentially break up the cycle of rough sleeping and emergency accommodation for women leaving prison, rather than the existing problems with a lack of secure accommodation.

In another presentation, Dr Christina Quinlan of Dublin City University said the level of supervision in Irish prisons for women was excessive.

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