Justice Minister Alan Shatter has confirmed prisoners are taking part in creative writing, photography, and film-production classes as part of a prison education service that cost the taxpayer €1.2m last year.
In a written Dáil response to Sinn Féin’s Pádraig MacLochlainn, he said providing the education service to inmates has cost the State €9.9m since the start of 2006 to the end of last year.
The cost peaked in 2007 to €1.8m and gradually reduced to €1.23m last year. The take-up represents almost two out of every five in the prison population — currently 4,062 people.
Mr Shatter said that for 2012, an average of 38.8% of the prison population attended educational classes.
He said the courses can be broken down into a number of categories including basic education such as literacy and numeracy, creative arts such as sound recording and photography, as well as technology, and healthy living.
“Educational services are available in all prisons and are provided in partnership with a range of educational agencies including the Education Training Boards, Public Library Services, the Open University and the Arts Council,” he said.
“The teachers’ salaries are funded by the Department of Education and Skills who provide an allocation of 220 whole-time teacher equivalents. Literacy, numeracy and general basic education provision is the priority and broad programmes of education are made available which generally follow an adult education approach.”
He added: “Programmes are adapted to take account of the diversity of the prisoner population and the complex nature of prison life.”
© Irish Examiner Ltd. All rights reserved