177 inmates will get temporary release this Christmas

The Department of Justice confirmed this in a recent statement

177 inmates will get temporary release this Christmas

The front gates at the entrance of Maghaberry Prison in Northern Ireland. Image: Matthew Fearn / PA Archive/Press Association Images

In total 4% of the overall prison population will be granted varying degrees of temporary release this Christmas. 

The Irish Prison Service said they granted the temporary release under the Criminal Justice Act 1960.

The corresponding numbers released for Christmas in 2013, 2014 and 2015 were 249, 242 and 203 respectively.

The Prison Service said "Many of the prisoners being released are nearing the end of their sentences and the overriding concern when considering the applications is the safety of the public.

"In addition to compassionate and humane considerations, other criteria taken into account include the nature and gravity of the offence, length of sentence served to date, prior record on temporary release, behaviour while in custody and previous criminal history."

Speaking about the types of temporary release they said "Periods of release vary from a few hours (in some cases accompanied by another responsible person) up to 7 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."

In previous years a small number of prisoners failed to return to prison at the end of their period of temporary release.