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Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Minister for Justice Alan Shatter
Image: Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Temporary release of prisoners 'reduces risk to the community' - Shatter

The Minister for Justice has said the planned temporary release of certain prisoners helps the “gradual reintegration” of criminals into society.
Apr 8th 2012, 8:45 AM 4,452 63

THE MINISTER FOR Justice Alan Shatter has said the temporary release of prisoners helps in their “gradual reintegration” into society.

Shatter said temporary releases assist in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release, administering short sentences, and acting as an incentive to prisoners.

“(Temporary release) is an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way,” he said. “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.”

Prisoners can be suggested for temporary release in a number of ways, however their selection is not always approved. Shatter said that “the safety of the public is paramount” when such decisions are being considered.

Criteria for the temporary release of prisoners

The criteria for the temporary release of prisoners is similar to those considered for the transfer of inmates to open prisons, Shatter said, and a number of factors are taken into consideration when considering a prisoner for temporarily release or transfer to an open prison:

  • The nature and gravity of the offence related to the sentence being served
  • The length of sentence concerned
  • Any recommendations of the court that imposed that sentence
  • The potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public, including the victim/s of the offence
  • The length of sentence served
  • Previous convictions
  • Conduct in custody and reports received from a variety of informed sources

Prisoners are usually be recommended for release by a prison governor or by therapeutic services officials. However, the prisoner, their family, or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession, and the prison parole board can also submit recommendations in relation to inmates serving long-term sentences.

Shatter said the steps for temporary release, as outlined in the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003, mean that all releases are subject to conditions – which, in the vast majority of cases, include a requirement to report to the offender’s garda station on a daily basis.

“Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the gardaí,” he added.

Transfer to open prisons

In relation to transfer to open prisons, a source at the Irish Prison Service confirmed to TheJournal.ie that inmates at times refuse an offer to be moved to lower-security facilities. The source stressed that in the “vast majority” of cases, this was due to concerns about family visitations.

Despite problems with overcrowding and a more heavily policed atmosphere, inmates serving sentences in facilities like Dublin’s Mountjoy Prison have declined to transfer to open security prisons such as Cavan’s Loughan House because of the strain it would put on family travelling to see them, the source said.

Shatter’s comments were in response to a Parliamentary Question by Bernard J Durkan TD about the entitlement of early release of prisoners. It came following the recent escape of 26-year-old Martin McDermott from Loughan House, where he was serving a sentence for the manslaughter of a Garda.

Funding secured to end detention of children in adult prison>

Overcrowding and treatment of older prisoners issues at Arbour Hill Prison>

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Jennifer Wade

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