Jailbirds make eager university pupils

The taxpayer is funding Open University (OU) courses for criminals in our jails to learn more about... crime.

Jailbirds make eager university pupils

Figures provided by the Department of Justice confirm that the Irish Prison Service last year spent €153,990 on 62 prisoners to sit OU courses.

The spend, revealed in response to an FoI request, was part of a €1.3m outlay by the IPS on prison education programme in 2013.

The programme includes this year’s Leaving Cert English syllabus, where inmates are studying Shakespeare’s Othello and Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice. In 2013, 10 students took the English course at Mountjoy, and 12 from the prison studied English in 2012.

The Dept of Justice’s FoI unit stated: “At present, the bulk of English teaching is delivered through integrated literacy. The vast majority of prisoners experience difficulties with reading, writing, and maths. Fetac modules are used to address this.”

One OU course taken by inmates last year was Crime and Justice, with others taking Welfare, Crime, and Society.

Inmates taking the Crime and Justice course explore crime and justice in both global and local contexts “and in particular, the way that crime and justice are being continually redefined by global economic, social and political change”.

Students study the impact of drug crime, cyber-crime, human trafficking, corporate crime, and torture and genocide in a course “for anyone who has a serious interest in studying one of society’s most pressing social problems”.

Convicts anxious to hone their leadership skills were able to do on the Leadership and Change course.

Others, perhaps thinking of relocating to Spain after their time is done, learnt Spanish with a course entitled En Rumbo: Intermediate Spanish.

More business-minded inmates took courses in Business and Organisations in their Environments, Business Functions in Context, and An Introduction to Business Studies.

Meanwhile, students interested in the arts took courses entitled Making Sense of Things, Voice and Texts, The Arts Past and Present, and Reading and Studying Literature.

Those who may be contemplating writing a prison journal took courses in advanced creative writing.

A list of the OU courses last year also featured Adult Health, Social Care and Wellbeing; An Introduction to Health and Social Care; Design and Designing; Exploring Psychology; Exploring Science; International Law; and Introduction to Sport, Fitness, and Management’. Others include Maths for Science; My Digital Life; Personal Lives and Social Policy; Sport and Exercise Literature; and Working and Learning in Sport and Fitness.

More in this section

War of Independence Podcast

A special four-part series hosted by Mick Clifford

Available on

Commemorating 100 years since the War of Independence