Life-term inmates released last year served average of 22 years

A total of 352 prisoners are currently serving life in 14 prisons, including 10 women

Seven inmates serving life sentences who were released last year had each spent an average of 22 years in prison, according to new figures.

The previous year six prisoners on life sentences were released having spent an average of 17½ years in jail. In 2014 the average time served was 20 years for the four inmates released after a life sentence, according to the figures from Tánaiste and Minister for Justice Frances Fitzgerald.

A total of 352 prisoners are currently serving life sentences in 14 prisons, including 10 women. Nine of the women are in Dochas, the female wing of Mountjoy prison in Dublin, and one is serving time in Limerick's female prison.

A life sentence is automatically imposed on conviction for murder.


Independents4Change TD Tommy Broughan said the number of prisoners serving life sentences accounted for almost 10 per cent of the prison population of approximately 3,600.

Mr Broughan, who received the figures in a parliamentary reply, said those serving life sentences represented a growing proportion of the prison population, and it was a significant responsibility for the Irish Prison Service.

Temporary release

The figures showed the number of prisoners released under reviewable temporary release, where a prisoner is given a specific release period whether a week, month or year, and this can be reviewed on an ongoing basis.

Ms Fitzgerald said life sentence prisoners released into the community “continue to serve their sentences and are subject to a number of stringent conditions”.

Mr Broughan said public feeling was that those who committed such serious offences as murder should serve a lengthy sentence.

A total of 9,345 prisoners were granted temporary release last year compared to 10,767 the previous year. Ms Fitzgerald said temporary release assisted in “gradually preparing suitable offenders for release”.

Safety of public

She said each application was examined on its own merits, and “the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made”.

Mr Broughan described as encouraging the figures for those released on probation, which showed that almost 63 per cent did not reoffend within three years. These latest figures released by the Central Statistics Office in November relate to 2010.

Statistics for those on community service orders or on probation show that 66.1 per cent of offenders did not reoffend within three years of the order, a recidivism rate of 33.9 per cent.

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran

Marie O'Halloran is Parliamentary Correspondent of The Irish Times