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Covid risk Less prisoners seeking temporary release this Christmas due to Covid-19 fears

There will be only 70 inmates freed over the festive period, compared to the 137 inmates who saw temporary release in 2018

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There are less prisoners seeking temporary release this Christmas because they fear contracting Covid-19, according to the prison service.

There will be 70 inmates freed over the festive period which is nearly double the 37 released last year.

However, the number is still significantly down on the 137 inmates who were temporarily freed over Christmas in 2018.

Many of the prisoners are nearing the end of their sentences with the periods of release varying from a few hours up to a week.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) said that there are less numbers overall applying for Christmas release due to a number of reasons.

This includes fewer numbers in custody leading to a reduced pool of eligible prisoners, and fears among inmates of contracting Covid.

The IPS said applications were down due to “some prisoners not wishing to avail of Christmas temporary release due to the risk of contracting Covid-19 whilst in the community.”

Latest figures from the HSE show that more than one in five people (21.2pc) are testing positive in the community with 6,307 confirmed cases yesterday.

The 70 prisoners being released is around 2pc of the entire prison population with all inmates subject to stringent conditions.

Any offenders caught breaking these terms may be arrested and returned to prison immediately.

A spokesman for the prison service said that the overriding concern when considering applications is the safety of the public and concern for victims.

“The important issues around the sensitivities of victims has also been carefully taken into account and additional specific conditions will also apply in relation to registered victim liaison cases.

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“Furthermore, all registered victims with the Irish Prison Service Victim Liaison Service will be informed in the cases where prisoners are receiving Christmas Temporary Release.

“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,” the spokesman added.

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Joe O’Reilly

Joe O’Reilly

Joe O’Reilly

 

One of the prisoners who won’t be getting temporary release this year is wife-killer Joe O’Reilly whose application was turned down.

O’Reilly, who has spent 14 years behind bars for the horrific murder of wife Rachel in 2004, submitted an application last month.

If approved it would have seen him released for up to three days and it’s understood he hoped to spend the holidays in the company of his and murdered wife Rachel’s two sons.

However, it was reported that prison officials rejected the application due to various factors including the high-profile nature of his crime, the publicity his release would have attracted, and the impact of it on his victim’s family.

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