Written answers

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform

Prisoner Releases

2:30 pm

Photo of Joe McHughJoe McHugh (Donegal North East, Fine Gael)
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Question 155: To ask the Minister for Justice and Law Reform if he will explain the circumstances of temporary release and or early release for persons on six months prison sentences; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4486/11]

Photo of Brendan SmithBrendan Smith (Minister, Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food; Minister, Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform; Cavan-Monaghan, Fianna Fail)
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I can advise the Deputy that the overriding concern in considering applications for temporary release is the safety of the public. The Criminal Justice Act, 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that the Minister may approve the temporary release of any sentenced prisoner, including prisoners of the nature described by the Deputy.

Temporary release arrangements, in accordance with the Criminal Justice Act 1960 as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003, can operate similar to a system of parole, which is a feature of prison systems worldwide. They are an important vehicle for re-integrating an offender into the community in a planned way. The generally accepted view is that the risk to the community is reduced by planned reintegration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence.

The Irish Prison Service has also judiciously used temporary release as a means of reducing numbers in times of serious overcrowding. Each case is examined on its own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. In addition, all releases are subject to conditions, which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a regular basis to the offender's Garda Station. Of course, any offender who breaches his or her conditions may be arrested and returned to prison immediately by the Gardaí.

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