Prisoners serving time for drugs offences and theft are most likely to be granted temporary release with some people released within weeks of being sent to jail.
A detailed breakdown from the Irish Prison Service reveals that of the 280 people on temporary release at the end of last month, 73 were in jail for “controlled drug offences” while 52 had been imprisoned for “theft and related offences”.
There were another 28 people given release that were serving sentences for attempts or threats to murder, and four who had been convicted of weapons and explosives offences.
The figures also show five people serving homicide offences – including three women from the Dóchas Centre in Dublin – were given temporary release. This included one man serving a sentence of more than 10 years in Mountjoy who had been sent to prison in October 2013.
There were also 12 people released who had been serving time for robbery, extortion, or hijacking, and four who had been convicted of offences related to terrorism or organised crime. In some cases, convicted criminals were released just days or weeks after being committed to prison, according to a database that was released under FOI.
In one instance, a man sent to jail for between three and six months on January 26 was already on temporary release five days later. Another case saw a female from the Dóchas Centre released within two weeks having been given a sentence of between six and 12 months.
Women were also significantly more likely to be granted temporary release than men, according to the figures. Of the 280 prisoners on temporary release on January 31, 55 – or almost 20% – were female.
Women make up less than 5% of the total prison population on any given day. However, overcrowding has also been a bigger issue in female prisons.
Exactly a quarter of all the prisoners (70) on temporary release on January 31, were on release from Mountjoy in Dublin. There were also significant numbers from Cork Prison (40), the Dóchas Centre for women (35), Limerick Men’s Prison (32), and the Midlands Prison (22).
There were small numbers from other prisons including three from high-security Portlaoise, but none from Arbour Hill. No sex offenders were listed as being on temporary release on the day which the data covers.
A spokeswoman for the Prison Service said prisoners can apply through the governor of a jail for temporary release.
She said: “It is very important to note that it does not necessarily follow that a prisoner will receive temporary release even if the recommendation made by the prison authorities and/or therapeutic services is to that effect.”
The spokeswoman said each was considered on a “case-by-case basis” with a number of criteria considered including:
- the nature and gravity of the offence;
- length of sentence served;
- prior record on temporary release;
- behaviour while in custody,
- and previous criminal history.