TEN prisoners have been electronically tagged and given early release as part of a pilot scheme.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said that, if the scheme works, he will extend it within the general prison population. However, he said he “wasn’t sure” if sex offenders could be included.
Last April, the Irish Examiner revealed the Prison Service was setting up the scheme using satellite tracking technology. Only low-risk inmates would take part, the service said.
A notorious killer and rapist, Geoffrey Evans, was originally to be included in the scheme, but is not among the 10 inmates.
However, it is understood he may be added to the scheme in the coming weeks.
Evans, who is serving life for the torture, rape and murder of two young women in 1975, has been in a coma on life support in hospital for the last 18 months. He is being included as a unique case as he is under 24-hour guard by two prison staff, which comes at a high cost to the prison service.
Speaking yesterday at the launch of the 2009 Parole Board annual report, Mr Ahern said he had pursued the scheme despite the objections of some NGOs.
“Despite that we proceeded with the pilot project, that’s been rolled out in the last number of weeks. In fact, about 10 people are out and electronically tagged as we speak.
“That’s being monitored to see how it progresses. If we find electronic tagging is working, we will extend it generally to prisoners. I’m not sure if we can extend it to sex offenders.”
He said a suggestion raised recently during the release of convicted rapist Larry Murphy was that sex offenders should be forced to attend rehabilitation programmes in jail and that those who don’t should be denied the 25% remission all offenders are entitled to get.
“The available research indicates the offender has to be properly motivated to have a positive effect.
“Compulsory participation is of limited value or no value in the vast majority of cases.”
He said it could also be extremely destructive to offenders who are willing to take part. He also said changing the right to remission was “legally quite problematic”.
Mr Ahern said you would end up having offenders in prison side-by-side enjoying different regimes of remission.
He added: “I have asked my officials to look closely at this issue to encourage the maximum level of meaningful participation in structured activities.”
He indicated he didn’t have any major problem with the media coverage of Larry Murphy’s release.
Parole Board chairman Gordon Holmes said it was “absolutely vital” some sex offenders be obliged to attend therapeutic services. He expressed concern at how the media treated Murphy’s release.
He congratulated the minister for bringing in legislation combating knife and gun crime, and backed the use of electronic tagging.
Cases that can apply for parole include life sentences (murder, manslaughter, rape) and offences carrying a minimum jail term of eight years, including sex offences, drug cases, robbery and burglary.
- Parole Board was referred 83 cases in 2009, compared with 66 in 2008.
- 147 other cases were carried over from 2008: a total of 230 cases.
- 64 inmates from the 83 cases participated and were accepted for review.
- 23 of the 64 were murder cases; 13 were sex offences; 10 were drug offences; and five were robbery.
- 11 prisoners were serving sentences of eight years; 19 inmates between eight and ten years; five 18 years or more and 25 life sentences.
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