Prisoners freed early to relieve pressure in violent jails
Published 02/11/2009 | 05:00
PRISONERS are being freed early because of chronic overcrowding and a rise in violence inside jails.
Almost 50 prisoners were removed from Mountjoy during just two days at the end of last week, in the aftermath of violence which left two prison officers hospitalised.
The inmates were granted early release or else given temporary release or transferred to a different prison.
The Irish Independent has learned that one man sentenced to more than three months in prison for his involvement in a hit-and-run incident was released from Mountjoy within 24 hours of being sent there.
Two prison officers were hospitalised for stab wounds after they tried to break up a row between prison inmates at the prison last week.
The stabbing, which occurred after a row over a pair of missing runners, came just days after a mini-riot in Castlerea Prison which saw inmates rampage on a landing.
The Irish Independent has learned that last Wednesday, 17 prisoners were moved out of Mountjoy to ease pressures.
Then on Thursday, after the prison officers were stabbed, 28 prisoners were transferred to other jails or released due to overcrowding.
Dochas, the women's prison at Mountjoy, is also struggling to cope with overcrowding. On Friday, 10 female inmates were released including a woman who was given a two-year sentence just four months ago.
More than 120 prisoners are currently accommodated at Dochas which has a maximum capacity of 84 places.
Inspector of Prisons, Judge Michael Reilly, has recently warned that lives are being put at risk due to chronic overcrowding in Mountjoy.
Last month the number of prisoners in Irish jails passed 4,000 for the first time in the history of the State.
The figure, released by the Irish Prison Service, did not include the estimated 500 prisoners on indefinite periods of temporary release in order to ease overcrowding.
And a landmark legal action by a Mountjoy prisoner is imminent in the High Court, with the case expected to centre on the issue of overcrowding.
The prisoner has argued that the conditions of his detention in the overcrowded holding cell amounted to cruel, inhumane and degrading punishment.
Three years ago the man was detained with 20 other men in a cell in the basement of Mountjoy prison, where Gary Douch was killed by another inmate.
The prisoner claims that conditions are in breach of his constitutional rights and the European Convention on Human Rights.