As well as the killer, attempted murderers, kidnappers, and people with convictions for weapons and explosives offences were among those released.
Fianna Fáil’s spokesman on justice, Niall Collins, said dangerous criminals were “roaming free” while the justice minister abused temporary release policy to massage prison figures.
The Department of Justice has confirmed that on March 2, 509 inmates, or 11.5% of the total prison population, were on temporary release. Almost a fifth (107) had been let out of Cork Prison, while another 117 had been let out of the male wing of Mountjoy prison in Dublin. Crimes for which prisoners on temporary release were convicted include:
- A homicide;
- 50 people who were convicted of attempts/threat to murder, assaults, harassment and related offences;
- A further two on release had been sent to jail for kidnapping;
- 26 had been convicted of dangerous or negligent acts;
- 11 for weapons and explosives offences.
A breakdown of the crimes also showed 147 people had been imprisoned for controlled drug offences, a further 77 committed road and traffic offences, and 79 were jailed for theft and related crimes.
Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald said 144 of the prisoners on release were serving less than three months solely for the non-payment of a court- ordered fine, while 173 prisoners were on structured temporary release programmes.
She insisted each application for temporary release was considered on its individual merits and a number of factors were taken into account when making a decision.
However, it did not follow that a prisoner would receive temporary release even if it was recommended by the prison authorities and/or therapeutic services, she added.
On the day the figures were taken, the prison system was running at 92% of capacity — 3,776 prisoners in custody as compared to a bed capacity of 4,126, although Cork Prison was at 114% of capacity on that date and Mountjoy male capacity was at 98%.
Mr Collins said the high levels for those two prisons were in spite of the fact that 158 prisoners were on temporary release from them.
“This is an extremely worrying situation,” he said.
“Essentially we have dangerous criminals roaming free while the justice minister abuses the temporary release policy to massage prisoner figures. If the temporary release valve was switched off, Mountjoy, Limerick and Castlerea would all join Cork prison in breaching their capacity limits.
“When you see the offences committed by some of the criminals on release, it’s clear that the policy is being abused to free up prison beds.
"One of the prisoners currently on temporary release is a convicted murderer, 50 others have been convicted of attempted murder, assaults, or harassment, while 24 prisoners convicted of burglary are also on release.”
“Minister Fitzgerald has failed to overhaul an expensive, ineffective and outdated penal system. The figures for temporary release show our prisons are struggling to cope with reduced resources and a lack of leadership when it comes to necessary reforms.”