Friday, 16 September 2016
Department of Justice and Equality
13. To ask the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of persons who are eligible for early release from prison in 2016; if she is satisfied that existing prison capacity is sufficient; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [24372/16]
I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that all prisoners, with the exception of life sentence prisoners who apply for release through the parole board process, who are sentenced to a term of imprisonment qualify for one quarter remission on the basis of good behaviour. In addition, prisoners who have engaged in authorised structured activity may apply to receive enhanced remission of greater than one quarter but not exceeding one third of their sentence. In order for a prisoner to be granted enhanced remission, I must be satisfied that the prisoner is less likely to re-offend and is able to re-integrate into the community.
The principles governing the awarding of enhanced remission are contained under Rule 59 of the Prison Rules 2007 to 2014 (S.I. No. 252 of 2007 and S.I. No. 385 of 2014).
Additionally prisoners serving between 1 and 8 years imprisonment who are making genuine efforts to desist from reoffending may apply for incentivised early release under the Community Return Programme on a Community Return Scheme. Prisoners serving sentences of under one year may apply for the Community Support Scheme. Decisions are made on an individual case basis and are governed by the Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003.
I am advised that the Irish Prison Service publishes figures in relation to the prisoner population and capacity levels on their website www.irishprisons.ie on a daily basis. On 7 September 2016 a total of 378 were on temporary release, of whom there were 81 participants on Community Return Schemes and 83 participants on Community Support Schemes.
The Deputy should be aware that the overall bed capacity of the Irish Prison System is 4,202. On 7 September 2016 there were 3,670 prisoners in custody, representing an occupancy rate of 87%. I am advised by the Irish Prison Service that it is continuing to reduce the capacity of our prisons to align with the Inspector of Prisons recommended bed capacity of 3,997. Significant decreases in prison numbers have taken place since 2011. The Deputy may wish to note that the number in custody reached a peak of 4,621 on 23 February 2011. On 29 August 2016 there were 951 less prisoners in custody, a decrease of 20%. I am therefore satisfied that the existing prison capacity is sufficient.