Know Your Rights - Your Rights As A Prisoner

The information on this website is designed to help you to better know and understand the rights someone has while they are in prison. This website is an interactive version of IPRT and ICCL's 'Know Your Rights - Your Rights as a Prisoner' booklet.

The booklet is available for download in different formats by clicking the orange button.

Please don’t be put off by the amount of information on this website. You can read and/or print just the sections that are important to you. We have done our best to write and present this information as clearly as we can, and we start below by explaining some of the key words used on this website.

You can always click back to the 'Key Words' section if you come across a word you do not understand. We used Plain English Guidelines to help as many people as possible understand the information.

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Prison Procedures for Transfer, Temporary Release, Remission and Parole

What is the procedure for being transferred?

Each prison services a particular court area. When you are sentenced to prison, you will be committed to the prison named for the court area where you appeared during your case. The Minister for Justice may change the prison where you are to serve your sentence.

As a prisoner, you have no legal right to serve your sentence in the prison of your choice. However, you can apply to the Governor to ask for a transfer to another prison if you have a good reason. The Prison Service will try to make sure you are in a prison as close to your home as possible. The Irish Prison Service will also decide to transfer you from one prison to another.

If you are a foreign national and you wish to return to your own country, you may apply to the Minister for Justice for a transfer to serve your sentence in your home state. There is no guarantee that your application will be accepted. It is up to the Minister for Justice to decide.

Sometimes you may be transferred to another prison, the Central Mental Hospital or another place like a hospital for medical treatment. Other times you may be released on temporary release. If any of these transfers happen, the Governor must record the date and on whose order you were transferred or released. (Rule 60)

If you are transferred from one prison to another prison, you should be allowed, as soon as possible, to let a family member or friend know that you have been transferred. (Rule 5)

What happens when I am released, including temporary release?

The Minister for Justice decides whether or not to grant you a temporary release. Temporary release means that you will be allowed to leave the prison for a certain period of time set by the Governor. The Minister will consider a number of things when deciding to grant temporary release.

These include:

  • the offence you committed
  • your family circumstances
  • your attitude to rehabilitation
  • your employment and training skills.

Temporary release is usually granted in these three circumstances:

  • on compassionate grounds
  • day-to-day and weekly release
  • reviewable temporary release towards the end of your sentence.

Temporary Release on Compassionate Grounds

Temporary release on compassionate grounds may be granted if there is an emergency in your family, for example where someone has died or is seriously ill. You may also be released to go to special family occasions like weddings, christenings or communions, or to deal with family matters.

Day-to-day and Weekly Release

Day-to-day and weekly release is usually granted to allow you to do work outside the prison. In some circumstances a Prison Officer will go with you (‘under escort’), or you may go alone.

Reviewable Temporary Release

Reviewable temporary release towards the end of your sentence is like parole. It means early release from prison towards the end of your sentence. ‘Reviewable temporary release’ usually depends on certain conditions being met. In most cases, these may include a condition that you report to a Garda station on a regular basis. Of course, if you don’t meet the conditions, the Gardaí may arrest and return you to prison immediately.

When Temporary Release is Not Allowed

The Minister will not release you for one or more of the reasons listed previously if they feel it is not appropriate to do so. The Minister may be unable to release you if it is against the law. You will not be allowed temporary release if you are charged or convicted of an offence and remanded to appear at a future court hearing.

Providing You with Practical Things for Temporary Release

If you are granted temporary release, the Governor must make sure that you have sufficient means to travel to your destination. If you have no clothes of your own or if your own clothes are unsuitable, you should be provided with clothes suitable to your age and gender. If you don’t have enough money to get by when you’re out on temporary release, the Governor should, if possible, provide you with as much as they think you’ll need.

If I get temporary release, must I agree to certain things?

Yes. The Minister for Justice can rule that a person on temporary release must:

  • stay at a particular location, or
  • stay away from a particular location, or
  • both.

There may by other rules attached to your temporary release. If you are granted temporary release you must agree with any conditions that are set. For example, you might have to:

  • go to a particular place each day or each week, like a Garda station
  • avoid going to certain places or types of places.

What would happen if I did not follow all the conditions?

If you break the conditions of your temporary release, you may be arrested without warrant and returned to prison. You may not be granted temporary release again. You might also be punished for not having followed the rules. If you do not return when your period of temporary release ends, you could be charged with being ‘unlawfully at large’. This means that you are out of prison when you should be in prison.

Other than temporary release, can I be released early from prison?

Yes, you can, however, there is no right to early release. Currently, there are programmes that allow you to be released early from prison (although you will still have to serve the rest of your sentence in the community).

For example, if you are serving a prison sentence of between three and 12 months, you may qualify to take part in the Community Support Scheme. Under the Community Support Scheme, you can be released from prison and supported in reintegrating back into the community.

If you are serving a sentence of more than one year and fewer than eight years, you may qualify for Community Return. Under the Community Return Programme, you can be released from prison after serving at least half of your sentence. You complete the rest of your sentence by carrying out community service.

The Irish Prison Service and the Probation Service decide if you are suitable for these programmes.

How do I get remission?

The term ‘remission’ describes the early and complete end of your sentence. It is based on good behaviour during the sentence. Remission means you can earn up to one quarter off your whole sentence by good behaviour.

For example, if your sentence is 24 months long, remission means you can get out in 18 months, six months earlier.

You cannot get remission if you are serving a life sentence or you are in prison because of contempt of court. In practice, one quarter remission is automatic if you do not commit an offence in prison. This is called ‘standard’ remission.

What is enhanced remission?

The Minister for Justice decides whether or not to grant enhanced remission , which you need to apply for. Enhanced remission would reduce your sentence by up to one third. A third off a 24-month sentence would mean you could leave prison eight months earlier. For this type of remission, you must show further good behaviour by getting involved in authorised structured activities. The Minister must be satisfied that you are less likely to re-offend and you are better able to go back into the community.

The Minister must inform you in writing if you are going to get enhanced remission and by how much they will reduce your sentence. If the Minister refuses to give you enhanced remission, they must write to you telling you why. The Minister may consider the following circumstances when deciding whether or not to give you enhanced remission.

1. Structured Activities

How much and in what way you took part in structured activities in prison, for example, in education.

2. Your Behaviour

If you took action to address your offending behaviour.

3. Seriousness of Your Offence

The nature and gravity of the offence for which you are serving a prison sentence.

4. Original Sentence

Your original sentence and any recommendations made by the court that sentenced you.

5. How Long You’ve Served

The period of the sentence served by you so far.

6. Any Threats You Pose

The potential threat to the safety and security of members of the public (including the victim of the offence) if you were released from prison.

7. Other Offences

If you were convicted for any other offence before being convicted of the offence that you are now serving a sentence for.

8. Your Behaviour

Your behaviour while in prison or during a period of temporary release.

9. Any Reports

Any report of, or recommendation made by:

  1. the Governor of the prison concerned, or the person temporarily carrying out the role of the Governor
  2. An Garda Síochána
  3. a probation officer
  4. any other person the Minister thinks may help them to decide about your application.