More than 90% of prisoners - including eight out of 10 sex offenders - will not come under tough new legislation which will bring an end to 50% remission, the Belfast Telegraph can reveal.
According to information obtained from the NIO, the Government has projected that up to 90 sex offenders and violent criminals each year could be subject to the new public protection sentences which are due to replace automatic 50% remission next spring.
This means that should the number or prisoners sentenced remain at the same level as last year (around 1,300), 93% of prisoners will still be entitled to walk free halfway through their jail term.
The remaining 7% could receive one of the new indeterminate or extended sentences for public protection.
They will have to go before a parole commission and demonstrate that they no longer pose a risk to the public before being released on licence.
Included in the NIO's projected figures are an estimated 15 serious sex offenders who could be subject to the new sentencing law.
According to the body that assesses and manages sex offenders in Ulster - the Multi-Agency Procedures for Assessment and Management of Sex Offenders (MASRAM) - there are around 80 sex offenders committed to prison each year. Therefore, using these figures, 80% of sex offenders will still walk free halfway through their sentence.
While an MP today said he was concerned by the news that such a large majority of offenders are still going to be released half way through their sentence, the Government has insisted that anyone who poses a serious risk to the public will not be released from jail until that threat is reduced.
The Government vowed to scrap automatic 50% remission for dangerous offenders last year after 35,000 people signed up to the Belfast Telegraph's Justice for Attracta campaign.
The campaign was launched after rapist turned killer Trevor Hamilton murdered Strabane pensioner Attracta Harron just days after he was released from jail halfway through a seven-year sentence for rape.
Despite promising to change the law the Government has been slow in introducing the new legislation with officials keen to ensure that the prison crisis that hit England and Wales following the introduction of similar sentencing policy is not replicated here.
The public protection sentences in England and Wales are now set to be overhauled amid alarm at the huge numbers being given the jail term. Jack Straw is considering placing restrictions on the use of the sentence as part of his attempt to ease pressure on the overcrowding crisis engulfing prisons there.
DUP MP Nigel Dodds hopes external factors, such as fear of prison overcrowding, will not influence the number of people kept behind bars indefinitely.
"I am concerned that it appears a large number of offenders are still going to be released under 50% remission, however we have been reassured that those who pose a risk to the public will be jailed indefinitely.
"But people need reassurances that issues such as cost and overcrowding in our prisons will not influence the decision on whether or not to hand down a public protection sentence."
Criminal Justice Minister Paul Goggins said he was content that for the foreseeable future there are enough spaces in our jails to accommodate prisoners who will come under the new sentencing legislation.