If someone is sent to prison then how they will be managed in custody depends on what sort of a risk they present (or that the prison think they present).
Men over the age 21 form the vast majority of the prison population. Adult male prisons are divided into ‘open’ and ‘closed’ prisons. Closed prisons are more secure and prisoners aren’t allowed out without an escort. The higher the categorisation, the more onerous the prison existence will be.
Within the prison service, prisoners are divided into four categories; imaginatively named A, B, C and D:
Category A – Prisoners whose escape would be highly dangerous to the public or the police or the security of the State and for whom the aim must be to make escape impossible.
Category B – Prisoners for whom the very highest conditions of security are not necessary but for whom escape must be made very difficult.
Category C – Prisoners who cannot be trusted in open conditions but who do not have the resources and will to make a determined escape attempt.
Category D – Prisoners who present a low risk, can reasonably be trusted in open conditions, and for whom open conditions are appropriate.
Prisoners who are in Categories A-C will be held in closed conditions. If someone is held on remand, then they will be allocated to Category B, unless they are going to be on trial for a very serious offence and would be allocated to Category A, in which case they will be held in ‘Provisional Category A’ conditions.
The categorisation exercise will be carried out after someone is sentenced and will be decided after looking at a variety of factors; the offence, previous offending, length of sentence etc.
As part of every person’s sentence plan, the prisoner will generally work their way through the various categories until they are in Category D from where they will be released.
Adult females are categorised in a similar way (although there are far fewer than males). Category A is the same, the equivalent of Category B is ‘Restricted status’, Category C is ‘closed’ and category D ‘open’.
Youths are categorised in the same way as adult females.