Saturday 16 December 2017

Prisoners could get out of jail after just 15 days

Alyson Henry

PRISONERS with short-term sentences could now get out of jail after just 15 days, due to changes made to legislation.

In one of the first changes implemented by new Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald, prisoners may now benefit from early release no matter how short their jail sentence.

Previously only prisoners serving sentences of longer than one month were eligible to have their sentence reduced by a quarter. However, this entitlement has been extended to all prisoners, meaning someone serving a 20-day sentence may now be out after just 15 days.

These changes come just months after a Limerick judge criticised the "revolving door" system in prisons after he heard a case in which a burglar was released weeks into an eight-month sentence. The man went on to commit several further thefts at the time when he should have been in prison.

Last night, the Department of Justice confirmed to the Irish Independent the rules had been amended due to a "legal challenge taken by a prisoner serving a sentence of one month".

The department rejected claims that the new system was prompted by over-crowding.

The changes are endorsed by the Irish Penal Reform Trust, (IPRT). A spokesperson said short prison sentences were "an expensive and ineffective way of dealing with less-serious offending". They added that community service for offences which attract a custodial sentence of under 12 months "address the cause of the crime" more effectively.

Under the new regulations someone imprisoned for committing a seriously violent crime can only have a sentence reduction of a maximum of 14 days. The only prisoners exempt from automatic sentence reduction are those serving life sentences.

Irish Independent

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