The number of prisoners on temporary release in Ireland has nearly doubled since the start of March.

Figures from the Irish Prison Service show that there are currently 552 prisoners on temporary release from Irish prisons, an increase of 247 since the start of March, and an increase of 117 since last Monday. The number had been holding fairly steady at around 300 since January of this year before rapidly increasing at the start of this month.

The increase appears to be due to the Prison Service deciding to release prisoners, on a temporary basis, in order to lessen the risk of an outbreak of COVID-19 within the prison system. They say that an outbreak of COVID-19 “would present significant challenges for prison in terms of controlling the spread of the virus amongst staff and prisoners”.

All those released are serving sentences of less than 12 months for non-violent offences but the Sunday Times recently reported that a number of those granted temporary leave are now suspected of involvement in a spate of burglaries at commercial premises in Dublin city.

Every prison in the state, barring Portlaoise and Wheatfield, was operating at over 90% of it’s capacity at the start of the month.