Prison Education Services


Work-training and education are the two main activities in prison. Many prisoners voluntarily take part in education programmes. In fact, everyone who is committed to custody is entitled to, and encouraged to participate in the extensive educational opportunities available.

The Irish prison system works in partnership with a range of educational agencies (for example, community colleges, public libraries, Education and Training Boards) to provide a broad programme of education. Prisoners may take classes ranging from basic literacy to Open University degrees.

The education curriculum includes physical education, health education, social education (with subjects such as Home Economics) and creative activities (art, drama, music and writing). Prisoners may also study the conventional school subjects leading to Junior Certificate and Leaving Certificate Examinations and Quality and Qualifications Ireland (QQI) accreditation.

In addition, pre-release courses on addiction, health issues and offending behaviour are provided. The aim of the programmes is to help prisoners cope with their sentences and prepare them for release.

The Prison Rules 2007 (SI No. 252/2007), published by the Department of Justice, describe the education and library services that prisons should try (as far is practible) to provide for prisoners.

Aim of prison education services

Educational programmes in prison are aimed at helping prisoners cope with their sentences and prepare them for release. In particular, these programmes offer them opportunities to discover and develop new skills. Methods and approaches used to encourage prisoners to enter these programmes are drawn from adult and communication education. Participation in all programmes is voluntary.

Teachers from Education and Training Boards teach and lecture prisoners. Other agencies contribute to prison education such as the Public Library Services and the Open University, which provides a wide range of degree courses. The Arts Council also provides writers' workshops, conducted by recognised writers and artists.

Objectives of prison education services

Prison education has grown and developed greatly in recent years. The 50% participation rate among Irish prisoners is very high by international standards. The overall aims of these services are to:

  • help prepare prisoners for life after release
  • give special attention to offenders with basic education needs
  • achieve personal development
  • encourage the capacity for further education following release
  • help prisoners cope with their sentences
  • ensure harmony and teamwork between the various educational agencies and groups
  • co-operate fully with other services in the prison system to promote Positive Sentence Management

Page edited: 8 August 2016