134 inmates granted festive release
A total of 134 prisoners will be granted temporary release this Christmas, officials have confirmed.
Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said the numbers freed under the Criminal Justice Act 1960 represents approximately 2.5% of inmates nationwide.
More than half of those being released are serving their sentences in lower security institutions including the Training Unit Semi-Open Prison, Loughan House and Shelton Abbey open centres. The majority are also nearing the end of their sentences.
The Department of Justice said the overriding concern when considering applications for Christmas release is the safety of the public.
"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," it said in a statement.
The periods of release vary from a few hours - in some cases accompanied by another responsible person - to up to seven nights.
"All releases are subject to stringent conditions, which in the vast majority of cases includes a requirement to report to his/her local Garda station," the department added.
"Any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to prison by the Gardai."
The corresponding numbers released for Christmas in 2007, 2008 and 2009 were 138, 107 and 176 respectively.