‘Nobody’s Pretending That’s Ideal’: Conflict, Women, and Imprisonment in Northern Ireland

Authored by: Linda Moore

Categories: Statebuilding
Sub-Categories: Political Transitions, Security Sector Reform (SSR), Transitional Justice
Country: Northern Ireland
Region: Europe and Eurasia
Year: 2011
Citation: Moore, Linda. "'Nobody’s Pretending That It’s Ideal': Conflict, Women, and Imprisonment in Northern Ireland." The Prison Journal 91, no. 1 (2011): 103-125.

Access the Resource:


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.