A radical change in the prison parole system may be introduced by Justice Minister Alan Shatter as part of a plan to reduce overcrowding.
The minister yesterday revealed he was examining a project that would allow prisoners serving a sentence of less than seven years to become eligible for parole.
At present inmates must have served at least seven years before they can make an application to be allowed out early to the Parole Board.
But now the minister is planning to reduce the limit, but early release will be on condition that the prisoner carries out community service.
If the prisoner fails to meet the terms of the condition, he or she will be returned to jail.
The minister is also looking at the use of community service to replace the "tail end" of a custodial sentence for appropriate offenders.
He said the extension of parole could be carried out without creating huge expense to the taxpayers.
A government decision will be heavily influenced by the recommendations of the Thornton Hall project review committee, which is due to report back to Mr Shatter by July 1.
Mr Shatter said the bill should be passed by the Dail before the summer recess.