Just one of 204 inmates on release returned late
All prisoners who were given temporary release from Irish jails for Christmas have returned to them, with only one inmate taking advantage of the privilege and returning late.
A total of 204 prisoners from the country’s prisons were let out on a temporary basis to be with their families, with most released on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Some prisoners are let out for a period of just a few hours, while the longest a prisoner got out over the festive period was in the region of seven to 10 days.
The one prisoner who stayed out longer than his allotted time only returned back to Mountjoy on Wednesday, having being released on Christmas Day.
“This individual had already gained enough trust to be moved from the main prison to the Training Unit, but now finds himself back in the main prison again for breaking the terms of his temporary release,” said a prison source.
“He will also find temporary release much harder to get in the future. Every year a number of prisoners are given time with their families, and while there was historically a high number who would abuse the freedom in the past, a more careful selection process now means that prisoners who are granted temporary release have built up trust and stand to lose a lot if they abuse that.
“Temporary release is usually just a few hours the first time, building up to a day, overnights and then days.
“It depends on what stage of their sentence they are at, their engagement with the prison services and their progression through the system.
“There was a time, back in 2007 and 2008, when you could have 17 to 27 prisoners not returning on time and, as a result of that, the selection process is much more refined now. There is a greater emphasis on proven trust.”
While there are critics of the system that is seen to give privileges to prisoners at Christmas, a survey conducted in 2015 found that an estimated 6,000 children in Ireland have a parent in prison on any given day.
The Penal Reform Trust survey found that, for a child, not knowing whether your parent or sibling will be allowed home in the weeks running up to Christmas can be stressful.