In all approximately 4,500 short-term temporary releases were granted in 1996 with approximately 4,000 prisoners receiving full temporary release. I stress that one cannot simply add these two figures together to arrive at a total number of individuals who obtained some form of temporary release in that year as there would be a significant overlap of individuals between the two groups. A prisoner may have been granted one day's temporary release to attend a funeral and subsequently been given full temporary release later in the year. This prisoner would be counted in both sets of figures.
It is not possible to say the number of temporary releases in which pressure of accommodation was a major factor. It must be said, however, that in a substantial number of cases the timing of the consideration of a prisoner for temporary release may have been affected by pressure on prison accommodation. Great care, involving consultation with prison authorities, the gardaí etc., is taken in selecting individuals for release. The overriding factor is always the likely risk which may be posed to the community by any release.
The extensive prisons building programme which I have initiated will when complete provide over 800 extra prison places reducing the current deficit in prison accommodation and alleviating the consequent need to consider granting temporary releases to offenders because of a shortage of prison accommodation.