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Early Release

Shatter defends early prisoner release scheme

Minister says he doesn’t foresee any difficulties managing new programme with current probation staff levels.

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE has defended plans to introduce a new early release programme for prisoners in Ireland, saying that “we need a different approach” to prisoner release than the current system.

“Prison has to be about more than simply warehousing prisoners who are then released back into the community to reoffend,” Alan Shatter told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland today.

“We need a different approach – we have to do things differently to reduce the level of reoffending.”

The Irish Prisons Service strategic plan, which was published earlier this week, outlined plans to reduce prison overcrowding and recidivism (or repeat offending) rates. Under a new early release scheme, at any one time up to 150 prisoners who had served at least half of their sentence would be released under certain conditions.

Shatter said today that the plan’s primary aim is to “ensure safe and secure custody and to protect the public”.

However, he said that the plan also aims to reduce the level of recidivism: “[Currently] we have a series of prisoners who commit their sentences and within a very short time reoffend and are back in prison.”

He said a strategic approach to the release of individuals is needed in Ireland which will be fully supervised and which will save taxpayer money.

Prisoners in line for this scheme will be of no risk to the community and they would be released on condition that they engage in programmes such as drug addiction services or community services, according to the minister.

Responding to concerns from probation officers over staffing shortages and the level of supervision required for the early release scheme, Shatter said that currently, there are 85 prisoners “being managed” under the programme’s pilot scheme:

My information is that there’s no reason why at any one time resources will create a difficulty in ensuring that 150 offenders instead of being within the prison system are managed under this particular system which will be to the benefit of the communities and which will be very carefully assessed before any individual is released to participate in it.

Dramatic 45 per cent increase in numbers sent to prison >

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