25 prisoners to be moved to Castlerea jail today


THE first 25 prisoners will be transferred to Castlerea prison in Co Roscommon today, where an £800,000 secure unit has been completed.

The Department would not comment on the category of prisoner being moved to Castlerea, except to say they were near the end of their sentences and had been closely monitored before being selected. Late last month the Minister for Justice, Mrs Owen, said the prisoners for transfer would be low risk and carefully selected, mostly from the west and probably nearing the end of their sentences.

There is speculation that some prisoners in Dublin may agree to transfer for a greater remission of their sentence.

It is less likely that prisoners with a drug problem will transfer, because they would have problems in getting a drug supply, while some drug free prisoners may want to get away from the drugs situation in Dublin prisons.

Eventually the Castlerea complex will house 150 inmates. Work on phase two of the project is to begin soon. In the past month, 17 prison officers have moved in on a phased basis.

Meanwhile, an announcement is expected today on the number of prisoners to be released from the State's prisons for Christmas.

Every year some prisoners are allowed home over Christmas as part of prison policy, but last year 30 of the 350 prisoners who enjoyed this privilege failed to return to jail. Most of them were believed to have been caught later.

Northern Ireland runs a similar scheme. It generally applies to long stay prisoners convicted of terrorist related offences who are being prepared for final release. The scheme has operated successfully, with few inmates failing to return.