Fianna Fáil Spokesperson on Justice Niall Collins TD has accused Fine Gael of creating a highly dangerous ‘revolving door’ prison system after new figures reveal that over 500 prisoners are currently on temporary release. These include dangerous criminals convicted of murder, attempted murder or robbery.

The figures released to Deputy Collins through Parliamentary Questions show that 11.5% of the prison population is currently on temporary release, while Mountjoy and Cork prisons remain at breaking point.  Mountjoy male capacity is at 98% and its female capacity is at 107% despite the fact 158 prisoners are on temporary release. Cork prison bed capacity has hit 114% even though there are 107 prisoners on temporary release.

Deputy Collins commented, “This is an extremely worrying situation. Essentially we have dangerous criminals roaming free while the Justice Minister abuses the temporary release policy to massage prisoner figures. If the temporary release valve was switched off Mountjoy, Limerick and Castlerea would all join Cork prison in breaching their capacity limits.

“When you see the offences committed by some of the criminals on release it’s clear that the policy is being abused to free up prison beds. One of the prisoners currently on temporary release is a convicted murder. 50 others have been convicted of attempted murder, assaults or harassments, while 24 prisoners convicted of burglary are also on release.

“Our penal system isn’t working. A recent report by the Irish Prison Service & the CSO showed that more than 62% of criminals in Ireland reoffend within three years of release. Meanwhile, the average cost of imprisonment per prisoner was €65,404 in 2012.

“Minister Fitzgerald has failed to introduce any meaningful reform to the Irish penal system. The figures for temporary release show that our prisons are struggling to cope with reduced resources and a lack of leadership from the Government when it comes to the necessary reforms. Despite comprehensive proposals on penal reform from the Oireachtas Justice Committee in March 2013 and the publication of the Strategic Review of Penal Policy in July 2014 the Minister for Justice cannot outline on single action that has been taken create a safer and more efficient prison system.”