Prison Service spent over €260,000 on university courses for 87 inmates

Inmates enrolled in courses relating to mathematics, psychology and Spanish

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) paid €130,127 for a total of 42 prisoners to enrol in Open University courses in 2017, while both the number of participants and the cost increased to 45 and €133,344 respectively last year. File Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) paid €130,127 for a total of 42 prisoners to enrol in Open University courses in 2017, while both the number of participants and the cost increased to 45 and €133,344 respectively last year. File Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

 

The Irish Prison Service has spent more than €260,000 on Open University courses for 87 inmates to study while they served custodial sentences in the past two years, new figures have revealed.

The distance-learning courses undertaken by prisoners at a cost of up to €3,392 per module included international relations, understanding criminology, and communication skills for business.

Inmates also enrolled in courses relating to accountancy, mathematics, psychology and Spanish, according to records released under the Freedom of Information Act.

The Irish Prison Service (IPS) paid €130,127 for a total of 42 prisoners to enrol in Open University courses in 2017, while both the number of participants and the cost increased to 45 and €133,344 respectively last year.

The cost of individual course modules ranged from €1,696 for subjects like you and your money and discovering mathematics, to €3,392 for international development and questions in science.

Among the inmates known to have undertaken study while in prison is wife-killer Joe O’Reilly, who trained to become a chef behind bars.

It was also reported that murderer Graham Dwyer sought permission from prison authorities to study for a doctoral degree while serving his sentence.

Budget

Last year, the overall education budget for the IPS increased by almost 19 per cent to €1.2 million. This included fees, materials and equipment. There are 220 teachers allocated to the IPS by the Department of Education for in-house tuition.

“The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes to those in custody that include education, vocational training, healthcare, psychiatric, psychological, counselling, welfare and spiritual services,” Minister for Justice Charlie Flanagan said recently in a response to a parliamentary question.

“These programmes can offer purposeful activity to those in custody while serving their sentences, and can encourage them to lead law abiding lives on release.

“Prison management take all reasonable steps to ensure that all prisoners who request access to education are provided with educational support. Education classes are provide to those who are on restricted regimes where possible, and all prisoners have access to reading materials, education and art resources on request,” he said.

Other Open University courses that proved popular with prisoners last year included voices, texts and material culture, the arts past and present, investigating the social world, and sport and exercise psychology.