Criminals gifted €750k ‘bus money’

Convicted criminals have been gifted more than €750,000 in ‘bus money’ on release from jail over the past five years.

The discretionary payments are sanctioned by prison governors and provided to convicts to cover the cost of transport when they are released from prison.

A total of €768,174 was spent by the Irish Prison Service on transport-related costs for released prisoners between 2009 and 2013, according to figures released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The practice is in place at each of the State’s 14 prison institutions. The highest amount sanctioned was €106,465 at Limerick Prison, which has an operational capacity of 220.

Prisoners released from Cork Prison were given a total of €104,685 in “bus money” during the five-year period, while €95,826 was provided to prisoners discharged from Midlands Prison in Portlaoise.

Amongst the lowest total amounts sanctioned was €780.56 over five years at Arbour Hill, which has an operational capacity of 142; and €4,214.50 at Cloverhill Prison, which has an capacity of 431.

A spokesperson for the Irish Prison Service said the provision of expenses for transport costs to prisoners upon their release was administered on the basis of individual needs.

Money for subsistence and other costs is not dispensed by the Prison Service, but a process is in place by which prisoners can liaise with a Community Welfare Officer regarding entitlements prior to their release.

The practice of providing transport expenses to prisoners was questioned last September, when journalist John Waters revealed that he had been offered money for a bus at Wheatfield Prison after spending two hours in a holding cell for non-payment of a fine.

The Irish Prison Service spokesperson said arrangements were in place for direct transactions with bus and rail companies, and cash is dispensed only in limited circumstances.

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