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Written Answers - Prisoner Releases

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 760 No. 3

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 450. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  if he will indicate [890]the basis used top determine entitlement to early release on whatever grounds, occasional release with or without supervision for specific events, transfer to alternative or open prisons throughout the prison service; if decisions come as a result of application by a particular prisoner, recommendation at whatever level within the service or otherwise; if successful applications are determined by a particular process which is transparent and cognisant of all issues such as welfare, health, potential threat to society and or any other criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16114/12]

 474.  Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Justice and Equality Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter  if he will indicate the basis used to determine entitlement to early release on whatever grounds, occasional release with or without supervision for specific events, transfer to alternative or open prisons throughout the prison service, whether decisions came as a result of application by a particular prisoner, recommendations at whatever level within the service or otherwise; if successful applicants are determined by a particular process which is transparent and cognisant of all issues such as welfare, health, potential threat to society and or any other criteria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16821/12]

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Alan Shatter): Information on Alan Shatter Zoom on Alan Shatter I propose to take Questions Nos. 450 and 474 together.

I refer the Deputy to my response to Parliamentary Question No. 472 on Tuesday 13th March, 2012 setting out the criteria which applies including the circumstances when temporary release may be provided and what matters must be taken into account.

Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family, or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. Recommendations are also made to me in relation to long term sentence prisoners by the Parole Board though it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect.

The identification of suitable candidates for transfer to alternative prisons or open centres follows a similar process as that in place for identifying those suitable for temporary release.

Reply to Parliamentary Question No. 472 on Tuesday 13th March, 2012

The Criminal Justice Act 1960, as amended by the Criminal Justice (Temporary Release of Prisoners) Act 2003 provides that sentenced prisoners may be approved temporary release. The Act sets out the criteria which applies including the circumstances when temporary release may be provided and what matters must be taken into account.

Candidates for temporary release are identified by a number of different means but primarily on the recommendation of the Prison Governor or the therapeutic services in the prisons. The prisoner, their family, or their legal representative can also apply for consideration of such a concession. Recommendations are also made to me in relation to long term sentence prisoners by the Parole Board though it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation is to that effect.

Temporary release assists in gradually preparing suitable offenders for release and in administering short sentences, and is an incentive to prisoners. It is 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 re-integration of offenders compared with their return to the community on the completion of their full sentence.

[891]All applications for temporary release for whatever reason including those referred to in the Question are examined on their own merits and the safety of the public is paramount when decisions are made. The criteria to be considered prior to the grant or refusal of temporary release include the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates, the sentence of imprisonment concerned and any recommendations of the court that imposed that sentence in relation thereto, the potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public (including the victim of the offence to which the sentence of imprisonment being served by the person relates) should the person be released from prison, the length of sentence served, previous convictions, conduct in custody and reports received from a variety of informed sources.

In addition, all releases are subject to conditions which in the vast majority of cases include a requirement to report on a daily 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.

A number of key recommendations contained in the Thornton Hall Review Group Report are also receiving priority attention in my Department and many are in the process of being implemented, most notably the introduction of an incentivised scheme for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service. In this regard, a six month pilot project commenced in October 2011 in which it is envisaged that a total of 130 prisoners will participate. As of Friday 9th March, 119 prisoners have been released under the scheme with a further 13 scheduled for release by the end of the month.


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