Thursday 27 April 2017

Explained: How long is a 'life sentence' for Irish criminals?

Wheatfield Prison
Wheatfield Prison

Laura Larkin and Kathy Armstrong

LIFE certainly doesn't mean "life" when it comes to prison sentences in Ireland.

In fact, a prisoner serving a life sentence can be reviewed for temporary or early release after serving just seven years of their sentence.

The final decision rests with the Minister for Justice.

According to official data the length of a life sentence served in custody can vary signigicantly.

"Life sentenced prisoners who are released into the community continue to serve their sentences and are subject to a number of stringent conditions," the department said in its reply.

In figures obtained by Deputy Tommy Broughan, who contested the last General Election as part of the Independents4Change party, the Department revealed that there are currently 352 prisoners serving a life sentence in Ireland.

Of these inmates  342 are male, while just ten are female.

Seven life sentence prisoners were granted temporary release last year after they'd served an average of 22 years.

This varied from the previous year when six life sentence inmates obtained temporary released after 17 years and six months on average.

Four life sentence prisoners were granted temporary release in  2012, 2013 and 2014.

The Midlands Prison has the highest amount of life sentence inmates, 79, Wheatfield Place of Detention has 71 and there  are 41 in the male unit of Mountjoy prison.

There are 39 men serving life sentences in Arbour Hill, 24 in Portlaoise and 16 in both Castlerea and Shelton Abbey.

Cork, Cloverhill and Loughan House also have male prisoners carrying out life sentences.

There are nine female prisoners serving life sentences in Mountjoy's female prison and just one woman serving life in Limerick.

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