A member of the board of the Irish Penal Reform Trust has said one of the biggest issues with Irish prisons is the increasing number of women being jailed.

Professor Joe Barry told RTÉ's Morning Ireland there had been an encouraging drop in the number of prisoners in Ireland over the past four years.

However, he said there had been an increase in the number of female prisoners and in the number of prisoners aged over 50.

Prof Barry said there were about 140 to 150 female prisoners at any given time, which was more than could be managed by capacity.

He said the issue was to try to prevent custodial sentences for women where possible.

Prof Barry said this was acknowledged by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service.

He said non-custodial options would help to address the problem of overcrowding.

Prof Barry said 1,800 of the 2,300 women committed to prison last year were jailed for non-payment of fines.

He also said people who were terminally ill were not a danger to society and should not die in prison.