Release plan for jails overcrowding
Some 1,200 prisoners are to be released over the next three years as the Irish Prison Service seeks to tackle a long-running overcrowding problem.
Under the plan, 400 inmates who are serving sentences of between one and eight years will be freed each year on temporary release.
Justice Minister Alan Shatter said the scheme would only be open to convicts who show they are not a risk to the wider community.
"Our prisons are not intended to be mere warehouses for criminals and I want to see an increased emphasis on rehabilitation," he said.
The plan was unveiled under the Irish Prison Service three-year plan. The document also set out how authorities aim to ensure in-cell sanitation in all prisons over the next 40 months.
The report said that by the end of this year, almost 60% of cells in Mountjoy will have in-cell sanitation and by 2014 the whole prison will have been radically upgraded.
Plans are well under way to redevelop Cork prison with new units being built on the car park site while there are separate plans for parts of Limerick prison to be rebuilt.
The Irish Prison Service said it has seen prisoner numbers increase by 32% over the five years to the middle of 2011 when they peaked at 4,389.
However, it warned the number of staff working in the service actually decreased from 3,350 to 3,310 at the end of last year.
Officials described the early release scheme as an incentivised system freeing prisoners temporarily and it would only be open to inmates who pose no threat to the community. The idea would see them released in return for supervised community service.