07 Jul 2022

Remission system that allows jail sentence to be cut at Portlaoise prisons to be reviewed

Legal costs double compensation awarded to prisoners

Midlands Prison Portlaoise

The remission system which allows sentences served by criminals and other offenders at jails in Portlaoise and elsewere is cut back is set to be reviewed.

The Minister of State at the Department of Justice who as responsibility for prisons, Hildegarde Naughton TD,has announced a review of how remission is applied to prisoners.

At present, the Department of Justice says prisoners sentenced to a definite term qualify for one quarter remission on the basis of good behaviour. Those serving life sentences, sentences for the enforcement of court orders or those sentenced for contempt of court are not eligible for remission.

However, a loss of up to 14 days remission can be imposed on prisoners for serious breaches of discipline, such as assaults, intentionally or recklessly damaging property, the detention of any person against their will, or for escape or absconding.

Following an inquiry into an incident, if a prisoner is found to have committed a breach of prison discipline, the governor of that prison may decide to impose one or more of a range of sanctions as specified.

Minister Naughton commented on announcing the review.

“As Minister with responsibility for the Irish Prisons Service, I am anxious to ensure that the system of remission is proportionate and serves to rehabilitate prisoners, whilst also ensuring that appropriate sanctions are in place in instances where there is misconduct.

“I want our prisons to be safe for prison staff and for other prisoners.  The operation of remission is an important aspect of the prisons regime and I want it to play its part in making our prisons safer places.  Where prisoners don’t meet the standards that we can reasonably expect of them, that should have consequences.  Of course, at the most serious end of the scale, the criminal law must take its course”

“As we conduct a review of penal policy, I have decided that the issue of remission and how it works in our prisons is ripe for review.  The issue will now be considered as part of the wider, on-going review of penal policy underway in the Department of Justice which is due to be completed and published by the end of the year.  I look forward to the outcome of the review and to a new regime that strikes the correct balance in how we deal with this important issue,” she said.

The Prisoner Disciplinary System, which includes offences against Prison Rules, is governed by law and dealt with in the Prisons Act 2007 and the Prison Rules 2007. The system is generally referred to as ‘the P19 system’.

Under the Irish Prison Service Guidance for the Imposition of Disciplinary Sanctions, loss of remission is only a sanction for what is considered a Level 1 breach of discipline which includes, amongst other offences, when a prisoner:

·         assaults any person

·         Intentionally or recklessly sets fire to any part of the prison or any other property

·         Detains any person against their will

·         Escapes or absconds from lawful custody

Loss of remission can also be imposed for attempting to smuggle contraband into prison, climbing onto the prison roof, bullying and barricading cells.

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