Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Questions (132)

Jonathan O'Brien


136 Deputy Jonathan O’Brien asked the Minister for Justice and Equality the number of offenders who have been released under the community return programme and the offences for which they had been originally convicted; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [23089/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Justice and Equality)

The Community Return Programme is an incentivised scheme introduced in line with the recommendations of the Thornton Hall Project Review Group which provides for earned temporary release under which offenders who pose no threat to the community are offered early temporary release in return for supervised community service.

The scheme, which was introduced on a pilot basis last October, is applicable to suitably assessed prisoners who are serving sentences of more than one and less than eight years. Those participating are granted renewable temporary release having served at, or after, the 50% stage of their sentence with a condition of their release to undertake supervised community service.

The following factors are taken into account in considering the suitability of a prisoner for temporary release to participate in the scheme:

the nature and gravity of the offence to which the sentence being served by the person relates;

the sentence concerned and any recommendation made by the Court in relation to the sentence imposed;

the potential threat to the safety and security of the public should the person be released;

the person's previous criminal record;

the risk that the person might commit an offence during any period of temporary release;

the risk of the person failing to comply with any of the conditions of temporary release;

the extent of the prisoner's engagement with therapeutic services while in custody and the likelihood of period of temporary release enhancing his/her reintegration prospects; and

conduct while in custody.

As announced with the launch of its new three year strategic plan, the Prison Service, in conjunction with the Probation Service, intends to increase the number of prisoners benefitting from this structured form of release over the course of the next three years. The Prison Service will work towards the placement of 400 prisoners per annum serving sentences of 1 to 8 years. It is envisaged that there would be no more than 150 prisoners participating in this scheme at any one time and all prisoners will be carefully assessed before being approved for the scheme.

Between 3 October 2011 and 31 March 2012, there were 137 participants in the pilot scheme. The scheme has continued and on 1 May 2012 there were 85 offenders taking part in the Community Return Programme. A total of 161 offenders have participated in the scheme and 56 offenders have completed the programme successfully.

I will write to the Deputy shortly with a detailed breakdown of the offences.