(QHA) - A total of 249 offenders will be set free from prison for Christmas, with some not being required to return after the holiday season, according to a sanction from Minister for Justice Alan Shatter, Irish Times reports. This is not the first year prisoners will be released during the Christmas time in Ireland. In 2011, 160 were let go while 225 were released in 2012. Most of those who are freed are close to finishing their prison sentences and are stuck in prison cells for non-violent criminal acts. Prison sources said that while some criminals jailed for violent offences are released each Christmas, they are regarded as no longer posing a safety risk. Still, some prisoners are only given a temporary release which can last anywhere from a few hours on Christmas day up to seven nights. Some of the release periods have already begun. In some instances, offenders released for a small amount of time may be chaperoned by prison staff.