72. Deputy Clare Daly asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality her plans to review the criteria for the community return programme with a view to extending it to prisoners with sentences in excess of eight years. [15800/17]
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): The Community Return Programme is an incentivised early release scheme co-managed by the Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service. It commenced in October 2011 and is now operational in every county and from every prison in the State. The Programme has been supported by the reallocation of resources and key personnel from within both services.
The Programme targets well behaved prisoners serving sentences of between 1 and 8 years imprisonment who are making genuine efforts to desist from re-offending. Prisoners serving sentences of less than one year are ineligible for Community Return and may instead be considered for release under the Community Support Scheme. Persons serving sentences of over 8 years generally fall within the Parole Board process. The legislative basis for making decisions on temporary release is fully set out in the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003. Each application is considered on its individual merits and in line with the legislative provisions.
I am informed by my officials in the Irish Prison Service that there are no immediate plans to change the eligibility criteria.