Eight murderers are being held in the “open” prison at Shelton Abbey, County Wicklow. Amongst them is the cop killer Martin McDermott who recently escaped and was re-incarcerated.

The Irish Prison Service has told the Irish Independent that, as of last week, there were 110 prisons at Shelton Abbey and 101 at Loughan House, County Cavan. According to the authorities, these “open prisons” are where prisoners nearing the end of their sentences can make the transition to living in the outside world.

Spokesman for the Irish Prisons Service said, “It's to prepare them for a more normal routine.”

The prisoners live in rooms, not cells. They have no bars on their window, no barbed wire and no high walls surround the compounds. However, there are police on guard at the front gates. The inmates are warned that if they break the rules, or attempt to escape, they will be sent back to closed prison.

In December 2009, policeman Gary McLoughlin died when his patrol car was rammed at Burt, County Donegal. Last July, Martin McDermott was sentenced to seven years for the crime, having been convicted of manslaughter.

In March, he walked out of Loughlan House, in Cavan. A report presented to the Minister for Justice Alan Shatter showed that McDermott had previously escaped from the “open” prison in 2007. He had 91 previous convictions.

Earlier this year, the authorities decided to move him to the open prison so he could benefit from family visits, additional family support, and further educational opportunities. Irish Prison Service chief Michael Donnellan has admitted the transfer was the wrong decision.

McDermott was found and recaptured in Derry. He is currently serving a four-month sentence in Northern Ireland for charges including assaulting a PSNI officer, resisting arrest and criminal damage.

The Minister and Prison Chief have both apologized to officer McLoughlin’s family.

Cop killer Martin McDermott being arrested in Derry