Few prisoners seek temporary release for Christmas amid Covid fears

Few prisoners seek temporary release for Christmas amid Covid fears

There was a smaller number of applications for release this year due to fears of contracting Covid-19 in the community.

Just 36 prisoners will be granted varying periods of temporary release this Christmas, the Minister for Justice has announced.

This number represents 1% of the prisoner population and compares with 113 in 2019 and 137 in 2018.

There was a smaller number of applications for release this year due to fears of contracting Covid-19 in the community.

Due to the new Covid-19 restrictions, as of midnight on December 24 the Irish Prison Service (IPS) is suspending physical visits to all prisons.

Physical visits that had been booked for after December 24 have been cancelled. Anyone who had planned to visit after Christmas Eve is asked not to travel to the prison and contact the prison to rebook a video visit.

The IPS said: "We regret that we must cancel these visits and understand that many families will be disappointed however, we will continue to make video visits available during this time and all prisoners have been granted an additional daily phone call."

Those who have been granted temporary release will be released for periods varying from a few hours up to six 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.

Specific additional conditions have been added due to the pandemic including an obligation to abide by all public health guidelines when at home or in public.

All prisoners will be required to quarantine on return to prison for up to 14 days or until they return a negative test for Covid-19.

When considering applications for temporary release, 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.

Minister Helen McEntee said sensitivities of victims have been taken into account and in some cases, additional specific conditions will apply.

All registered victims with the Irish Prison Service victim liaison service will be informed in the cases where prisoners are receiving Christmas Temporary Release.

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