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Going Home for Christmas: Prisoners, a Taste of Freedom and the Press

NCJ Number
Howard Journal of Criminal Justice Volume: 50 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2011 Pages: 75-91
Ian O'Donnell; Yvonne Jewkes
Date Published
February 2011
17 pages
This article discusses the policy of allowing prisoners in the United Kingdom and the Republic of Ireland to leave prison and join their families during the Christmas holidays.
This article explores the extent to which prisoners in the United Kingdom and Republic of Ireland are permitted to leave prison to join their families for the Christmas festivities. It is argued that the willingness to allow such absences provides insights into divergent penal policies and contrasting socio-cultural attitudes towards prisoners and imprisonment (and, tangentially, the meaning of Christmas). In the Republic of Ireland the use of temporary release (TR) for Christmas - although in decline - has been largely uncontroversial. Even when addressing prisoners who fail to return at the end of their leave, press coverage tends to be discreet and factual. Very different in style and tone are newspapers in the United Kingdom which tend only to report prisoner release schemes if the stories can be linked to themes of recidivism, pampered (and dangerous) prisoners and misplaced political correctness. Here the granting of a taste of freedom is characterized by a strong belief in the 19th-century principle of 'less eligibility' and the implication that prison inmates are an undeserving underclass who should be shown no goodwill at any time of the year. Notes and references (Published Abstract)