Highest education level for half of prisoners is Junior Cert or less - CSO

One in ten offenders who were in prison in 2016 were in substantial employment last year

The highest education level attained by more than half of prisoners is Junior Certificate or less, according to new figures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO).

Just over one in ten offenders who were in prison during the 2016 Census were in substantial employment last year.

There were 3,791 people recorded in Irish prisons in the 2016 Census, the national survey of the population. The CSO studied the outcomes of 2,850 of these offenders in areas such as education and employment by 2019, based on pseudonymised data from Revenue and various Government departments.

Some 22.7 per cent of offenders were enrolled in education or training courses, according to the CSO figures published on Monday.


Over half of the former prisoners (59.7 per cent) were neither employed nor in education in May 2019, according to the figures.

Fifty-seven per cent of the offenders only had qualifications up to Junior Cert level or less, which could include further education courses for early school leavers.

Some 41 per cent had a Leaving Cert or post-Leaving Cert course qualification. Just 30 offenders were enrolled in higher education, or 1.2 per cent .

Only two-fifths of those studied had any record of employment, with the employment rate of the group varying significantly over the last 15 years.

The highest level of employment among the offenders was 15.8 per cent in 2007, which fell steadily following the financial crash.

The employment rate reached a low of 3.3 per cent in the first four months of 2016, before steadily increasing to 11.7 per cent by early 2019.

The median weekly earnings of the group was €346 in 2011. This fell to €235 in 2016, before rising back to €350 in 2018, according to the CSO figures.

Social protection payments made up over a quarter of all income of the group in 2013. Last year welfare payments made up 15.5 per cent of all offenders’ income.

Four out of five offenders who were neither in education or employment were receiving welfare in April 2016, according to the CSO figures. The group was made up of 2,750 male offenders and 100 females.

Jack Power

Jack Power

Jack Power is acting Europe Correspondent of The Irish Times