The average amount of time spent in custody while serving a life sentence in Ireland is just over 17 years, according to a new report.
The annual report of the Parole Board for 2018 was published today, detailing the 122 cases of prisoners reviewed during 2018, seven of whom were long-sentence prisoners recommended for temporary release.
The average time served in custody prior to release by a life sentence prisoner in 2018 was 17.5 years, compared with 18 years in 2017.
Two released prisoners were returned to custody during 2018, one at his own request in the context of possible public safety concerns and the other following a charge of assault.
Life sentence prisoners who are granted temporary release are regarded in law as still serving that sentence and are liable to recall at any time.
Prisoners serving life sentences become eligible to be considered for release after 12 years (up from seven years) and victims are informed when a prisoner is to be considered for parole.
The report flags serious drug and alcohol abuse among prisoners as a major concern, along with mental health and learning disabilities.
“A huge number of life sentence prisoners commenced taking drugs and/or alcohol as young teenagers,” the report said.
“Figures provided by the Probation Service detail that 89% of offenders under their supervision have had or currently have an addiction to alcohol and/or drugs.”
The chairman of the board John Costello also recommends that a new report be compiled on disability among prisoners.
“In 2000, results showed that about 30% of the prison population had an IQ of below 70. After nearly 20 years, this report should be updated,” he said.
In 2018, recommendations were sent to the Minister for Justice and Equality in 111 of the cases reviewed.
The Parole Board can make a variety of recommendations following their review of cases, including: therapeutic services, education, work training, a less secure custodial environment, family visits, transfer to an open centre, and reviewable temporary release.
The minister accepted the recommendations in 92 cases in full, however the Parole Board’s role is advisory and the minister is not bound by its recommendations.
Minister of Justice Charlie Flanagan said: “The provision of advice to me on the management of long-term prisoners’ sentences is a very complex and sensitive area.
“The actions of those who come before the Parole Board for consideration have had catastrophic and long-lasting consequences for the victims of the offences concerned and their families. There are no easy decisions in these matters.”
- Press Association