Christmas at home for 249 inmates
Almost 250 convicted criminals are being released from prison to spend Christmas at home.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said 249 prisoners - about 5% of the prison population - will be granted varying periods of temporary release over the week.
Inmates very near the end of their sentences will also be freed from jail.
Mr Shatter said approximately 75% of those being released are serving sentences in lower security institutions and the vast majority are on an enhanced regime level, introduced for those with good behaviour.
"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," his department said.
"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."
All inmates will be released from a few hours - in some cases they will also be accompanied - to 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 gardai," the statement added.
Other prisoners will also be brought to visit inmates in other prisons over the Christmas period.
Last year 226 men and women were given leave over the holiday period, with 160 freed in 2011, 134 in 2010 and 176 in 2009.