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"Nobody's Pretending That It's Ideal": Conflict, Women, and Imprisonment in Northern Ireland

NCJ Number
Prison Journal Volume: 91 Issue: 1 Dated: March 2011 Pages: 103-125
Linda Moore
Date Published
March 2011
23 pages
Based on primary qualitative research with women prisoners in Northern Ireland (conducted for the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission by the author with Professor Phil Scraton 1, Professor of Criminology, School of Law, Queens University Belfast), this article documents the serious and persistent breaches of international rights standards experienced by incarcerated women and the continued impact of the violent political conflict in the North on women's penal regimes.
Feminist authors have commented on the gendered nature of the state's punishment of politically motivated women in Armagh prison during the years of conflict and have also discussed the ways in which women prisoners used their bodies as weapons of resistance. It is argued here that the failure of the authorities to effectively tackle the historical and current breaches of women prisoners' rights as part of the process of transition to a more peaceful society has allowed the continuation of control and punishment-oriented regimes for "ordinary" women prisoners. The article explores the state's failure to reform the women's prison system in Northern Ireland in the face of successive critical reports from regional, national, and international inspection and "watchdog" bodies that have recommended the establishment of a new "rights-based" women's prison unit alongside the development of a gender-specific strategy and policies. The article concludes by assessing the current opportunities for change. (Published Abstract)