Some 137 prisoners will be granted varying periods of temporary release this Christmas under the Criminal Justice Act 1960.
Laois TD and Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan announced this today and said the figure represents approximately 4% of the overall prisoner population.
The corresponding numbers released for Christmas in 2015, 2016 and 2017 were 203, 177 and 142 respectively.
Many of the prisoners being released are nearing the end of their sentences and the overriding concern when considering the applications is the safety of the public.
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 periods of release vary from 1 to 7 nights. All releases are subject to stringent conditions and any offender who breaks these conditions may be arrested and returned immediately to prison by the Gardaí.