Lower number of prisoners (70) set to get Christmas temporary release

Reluctance among some to take up temporary release over Covid spread, prison quarantine conditions

Seventy prisoners are due to receive temporary release over the Christmas period

Seventy prisoners are due to receive temporary release over the Christmas period

 

Seventy prisoners are due to receive temporary release over the Christmas period, with the number down on most previous years.

The lower figure this Christmas – about 2 per cent of the overall population – is due to reduced numbers in custody overall and a reluctance by some prisoners to return to the community due to the spread of Covid-19.

It is understood prisoners are also reluctant to avail of temporary release as they will be forced to undergo up to two weeks’ quarantine on their return to prison, as part of Covid control measures.

Last year 37 prisoners received Christmas temporary release. In 2019 it was 113, and in 2018 it was 137.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) said many of the prisoners being released are near the end of their sentences. “The overriding concern when considering the applications is the safety of the public and the concerns of victims,” a spokesman said.

“The important issues around the sensitivities of victims has also been carefully taken into account and additional specific conditions will also apply in relation to registered victim liaison cases.”

It said all victims registered with the IPS Victim Liaison Service will be informed if the prisoner in their case is receiving temporary release.

Release is granted for compassionate and human reasons. Other relevant factors are the nature and gravity of prisoners’ offences, the time they have served to date, their behaviour in custody and their behaviour during previous periods of temporary release.

The release periods vary from a few hours up to seven nights. “All releases are subject to stringent conditions and any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to prison by the gardaí,” the prison service said.

Separately, health officials in Wheatfield Prison are dealing with an outbreak of Covid-19 in the prison that has resulted in the infection of several staff members. No cases have been reported among prisoners.