The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. Dermot Ahern, T.D., announced today that 176 prisoners will be granted varying periods of temporary release this Christmas under the Criminal Justice Act 1960. This figure represents approximately 4% of the prisoner population. The corresponding numbers released for Christmas in 2006, 2007 and 2008 were 238, 138 and 107 respectively.

Of the prisoners being released this year, approximately 53% are prisoners serving their sentences in our lower security institutions: the Training Unit Semi-Open Prison; Loughan House and Shelton Abbey Open Centres.

The prisoners being released are nearing the end of their sentences and the overriding concern when considering the applications is the safety of the public. In addition to compassionate and humane considerations, other criteria taken into account include the nature and gravity of the offence, length of sentence served to date, prior record on temporary release, behaviour while in custody and previous criminal history.

The periods of release vary from a few hours (in some cases accompanied by another responsible person) up to 7 nights. All releases are subject to stringent conditions, which in the vast majority of cases includes a condition of house arrest and a requirement to report to his/her local Garda station. Any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to prison by the Gardaí.

23 December 2009