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'Free killers early to make space in jails'

KILLERS and sex offenders should get early release from prison to help free up spaces in the country's jails, according to a new report.

Calls have been made by the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) for prisoners jailed for less than five years to only serve half their sentence.

Sex offenders should also be allowed out early under supervision, and drug dealers and murderers should be permitted to apply for temporary release, according to the Trust.

The group is also recommending that those found guilty of capital murder -- the killing of a garda or prison staff -- who normally incur a minimum sentence of 40 years, should also be eligible for early parole.

The Trust has made the recommendations in a submission on reforming remission, temporary release and parole systems.

It recommends that prisoners serving sentences of less than five years should be freed after they have served half the term and those serving longer sentences should get one third remission instead of the current 25pc.



Overhaul

The Trust wants decision making related to prisoners serving life "removed from political control" and has called for "structures and incentivised early release" programmes.

It says a single 'Early Release Act' should be put in place to overhaul the current systems of remission, temporary release and parole.

This should increase remission to 50pc for sentences under five years and 33pc for longer sentences with an enhanced 50pc for those who take part in incentivised regimes.

A more transparent system of temporary release with clear criteria for compassionate release, weekend release and day to day work release should also be put in place.

The principle of the recently introduced Community Return Scheme should be expanded and prisoners should have a rights to challenge refusals for release.

"At present the biggest obstacle to the prison system operating effectively is the chronic overcrowding throughout the system," said IPRT director Liam Herrick. He said reforms suggested by the Trust would improve community safety.

csheehy@herald.ie


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