herald

Sunday 22 October 2017

Brief prison terms to get even shorter

PRISONERS given jail sentences of one month or less will now qualify for early release for the first time.

A court challenge to existing prison rules has meant that short-term prisoners can now avail of standard remissions of one quarter of their sentence.

Existing procedures had meant that the standard early release rules did not apply to those given jail terms of less than one month.

But a woman serving a sentence of one month in prison recently succeeded in a court challenge to the ban on early releases for short-stay prisoners.

The existing rules had caused an unfair situation to emerge in which a person sentenced to five weeks in prison would get released sooner than a person sentenced to four weeks.

Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald has now formally removed the official ban on remission for short sentences.

A Department of Justice spokesman told

disruptive

“The issue arose in the context of a legal challenge taken by a prisoner serving a sentence of one month. No other consideration was involved.”

A prisoner who engages in violent or disruptive behaviour can be punished by having their remission of sentence curbed.

The Department stated that the rule change permitting the new category of early releases had nothing to do with any attempt to reduce any incidence of over-crowding in any of the State’s 14 prisons.

The only prisoners who do not qualify automatically for one-quarter remission of their sentence are those who are sentenced to life.

About 3,300 people convicted of road traffic offences served sentences of less than three months last year. And around 1,400 people received jail sentences of less than three months for public order offences in 2013.

Last year, a survey of women prisoners serving short sentences at the Dochas Unit in Mountjoy Prison showed many had experienced homelessness, depression, and substance abuse prior to being imprisoned.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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