Some 177 prisoners will get jail release for Christmas
Some 177 prisoners will be released over the Christmas period, the prison service has confirmed.
In a statement the Department of Justice confirmed that the inmates will be granted varying periods of temporary release.
This figure represents approximately 4pc of the overall prisoner population.
However, Independent.ie has learned that most of the high-profile criminals, including wife killer Joe O'Reilly and murderer Graham Dwyer, will remain behind bars over the festive season.
The number is less than in previous years. The corresponding numbers released for Christmas in 2013, 2014 and 2015 were 249, 242 and 203.
A source said that this was largely due to the smaller number of people in Irish prisons.
According to the statement many of the prisoners being released are nearing the end of their sentences and "the overriding concern when considering the applications is the safety of the public".
The statement continues: "In addition to compassionate and humane considerations, other criteria taken into account include the nature and gravity of the offence, length of sentence served to date, prior record on temporary release, behaviour while in custody and previous criminal history."
The periods of release vary from a few hours, in some cases accompanied by another responsible person, up to seven nights.
"All releases are subject to stringent conditions and any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to prison by the Gardaí."
In previous years small numbers of prisoners have failed to return at the end of their period of temporary release.