Irish Examiner view: Second chance education can redeem lives so let's invest in it

Irish Examiner view: Second chance education can redeem lives so let's invest in it

Over the last while, when there was one of those occasional spikes in violent crime, all of the usual responses were aired. Get-tough policing and stiffer sentences were, of course, advocated.

As was, more reasonably, an increase in the number of gardaí on the streets.

Those first two default reactions are almost as old as crime itself and barely make a dent in the figures because they do not address the drivers of some — not all — crime.

Poverty begets crime as does the absence of education and opportunity. That disadvantage manifests itself in many ways. One is the number of prisoners who have used jail time to further — or begin — their education.

Over the last two years 125 inmates have taken Open University courses. Of 58 who enrolled in 2018, all but three passed easily.

The most popular course is An Introduction to Business and Management. Some used the opportunity to fill gaps in their basic education in maths or reading.

In the context of the prison population — hovering below 4,000 — these figures hardly suggest a runaway programme of transformation but it does seem proportionate to the poor investment in prison education which was a very modest €1.265m in 2018.

In an ideal world there would be resources to deliver on every good idea. Even though we are not in an ideal world — Irish prisoners certainly are not — this investment seems to have the capacity to pay huge life and society transforming dividends.

Further investment seems justified.

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