Violent inmates will serve longer prison terms under Government plans

Currently prisoners are automatically entitled to 25% off their sentence

Prisoners who commit assaults or other serious offences in custody are less likely to receive automatic time off their sentence, under plans being considered by Government.

Currently most prisoners are automatically entitled to an automatic 25 per cent remission from their sentence.

Remission can be reduced in certain circumstances, but only by a maximum of 14 days for a single offence.

On Sunday, Minister of State at the Department of Justice, Hildegarde Naughton announced a review of how remission should be applied to prisoners in future.

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“I want our prisons to be safe for prison staff and for other prisoners. The operation of remission is an important aspect of the prisons regime and I want it to play its part in making our prisons safer places,” she said.

“Where prisoners don’t meet the standards that we can reasonably expect of them, that should have consequences.”

The review is expected to examine whether remission should be proactively earned by good behaviour, rather than automatically applied. This would serve to significantly lengthen sentences for prisoners who repeatedly commit offences or discipline violations while behind bars.

The Prison Officers Association has previously called for a restructuring of the remission system in other to better protect officers from assault. The Government first promised to address the issue three years ago.

‘Ripe for review ’

Ms Naughton said on Sunday the issue is “ripe for review” and it will be considered as part of a wider review of penal policy being conducted by her Department this year.

She said she is “anxious to ensure that the system of remission is proportionate and serves to rehabilitate prisoners, whilst also ensuring that appropriate sanctions are in place in instances where there is misconduct.”

The prison disciplinary system, commonly referred to as the P19 system, allows for the loss of remission only for “level 1” discipline breaches. These include assault of prisoners or staff, setting fires, escape attempts and detaining others against their will.

Prisoners can also lose remission for smuggling contraband, climbing onto a prison roof, barricading cells and bullying.

Prisoners serving life sentences or sentences for contempt of court are not entitled to remission.

“I look forward to the outcome of the review and to a new regime that strikes the correct balance in how we deal with this important issue,” Ms Naughton said.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime Correspondent of The Irish Times