95. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality the number of prisoners, by prison, who were granted temporary release in 2015, 2016 and to date in 2017; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [15856/17]


Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Frances Fitzgerald): I can advise the Deputy that the number of prisoners granted temporary release, by prison, for the years 2015 and to date in 2017 is set out in the following table.

Establishment 2017 (Year to date) 2016 2015
Arbour Hill 13 26 16
Castlerea 136 912 989
Cloverhill 10 54 68
Cork 246 1,502 2,001
Dochas 244 1,165 1,354
Limerick Female 90 952 1,036
Limerick Male 179 1,143 1,053
Loughan House 15 29 48
Midlands 208 1,315 1,461
Mountjoy 445 1,796 2,163
Portlaoise 17 48 46
Shelton Abbey 14 27 31
St Patrick's Institution 1 12 13
Training Unit 52 100 99
Wheatfield 69 264 389
Total 1,739 9,345 10,767

The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that sentenced prisoners may be approved temporary release whether it be for a few hours or a more extended period. The Act sets out the circumstances when temporary release may be provided and what matters must be taken into account.
Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. Recommendations are also made to me in relation to long term sentence prisoners by the Parole Board. It is very important to note that it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect. Before a final determination a number of factors may be taken into account including:
- the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by the person relates
- the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed
- the period of the sentence served by the person
- the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released
- the person's previous criminal record
- the risk of the person failing to return to prison at the expiration of the period of temporary release
- the conduct of the person while in custody or while previously on temporary release
- any report or recommendation made by the Governor, the Garda Síochána, a Probation & Welfare Officer, or any other person whom the Minister considers may be of assistance in coming to a decision as to whether to grant temporary release
- the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release
- the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release
- the likelihood that a period of temporary release might accelerate the person's reintegration into society or improve his prospects of obtaining employment.
Temporary release assists in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release and in administering short sentences, and is an incentive to prisoners. It is an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence. Each application for temporary release for whatever reason, including those referred to in your question, is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made.
In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a daily basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí or may be refused another period of reviewable temporary release.