Prison Education News

CDETB Educational Service to Prisons


:: Last Updated

Nov 2014





News and Events

Minister Launches Interactive Literacy Pack

Literacy pack launch

At the launch of the Interactive Literacy Pack by CDETB in Dublin's Mansion House in September 2012, Rúairí Quinn TD, Minister for Education and Skills described the issue of literacy as a 'project close to his heart'. Often the issue of literacy is the 'elephant in the room' according to the Minister who said that our education system has been in denial about drop-out rates among learners for years and is now taking active measures to put this to rights. The Minister warmly congratulated CDETB on this initiative which was designed and produced by Helen Cawley and Jimmy O’Rouke and students in Arbour Hill Education Centre. Following the Minister's address the package was demonstrated by Helen and Jimmy.

Literacy pack launch

The e-learning literacy pack is a response to an identified need for learner-centered methods and materials that combine literacy with new technologies. It transfers paper-based materials to an interactive computer environment.
The pack was launched to a wider audience of Adult Literacy Officers and tutors across the City of Dublin. Michael Donnelan, Director General IPS, spoke about his personal conviction that education is a key response to addressing social inclusion and Jacinta Stewart, CEO CDETB, spoke about how the provision of basic literacy and numeracy skills to disadvantaged adults is a crucial part of what the CDETB does. The launch was also attended by Liam Dowling ,Governor of Arbour Hill Prison, Paddy Bourke, Chairperson of CDETB and Michael Conaghan, former chairperson.

Zoo Keeper Visits St. Pats

Zoo visit

Dublin Zoo Operations Manager, Gerry Creighton, came to St. Patricks Institution in December 2012 bringing two very special guests with him - a snake and a chameleon. A number of the students got the opportunity to hold the snake and they really enjoyed this.
Gerry is a second generation zoo keeper and has worked in the zoo for over twenty six years. He showed the students a DVD of some of the goings on in the zoo. In all, his visit was really well received by students and staff alike. – Jane Kelleher

Creative Writing Workshop in Mountjoy

Mia Gallagher

In January, 2013, fiction writer and playwright, Mia Galllagher, began a creative writing workshop in Mountjoy which ran up to the mid term. Mia has been writing professionally since her early 20s and has written journalism and educational content for TV, DVD and the internet. "My work, she says, "usually tends to dark themes but I wouldn’t say I’m gratuitous about this. I enjoy exploring how human beings get themselves into compromised situations, how they try and fail or succeed in getting themselves out". Her first novel, HellFire, is about a young woman from inner-city Dublin who is involved in the heroin trade but also fascinated by stories of magic and the supernatural. The novel she is working on at the moment is about Georgia, a transgender woman who is triggered into re-telling a story of her childhood; at the same time, Georgia’s childhood babysitter, in a different time and place, is just about to die and has to come to terms with her deeper ancestral history.

Hellfire book cover

In relation to her writing and drama workshops, Mia believes in meeting all her students where they are and in working with them to find ways which will allow them express themselves, their experiences and their stories as fully and imaginatively as they can. She has done workshops with lots of different types of groups such as people in recovery from addiction, people with mental health issues, young people at second-level schools who come from disadvantaged backgrounds, people with literacy issues, professional writers, emerging writers and senior citizens. She has worked with Merchants Quay since 2001 where many of those she sees have come straight from prison. "I work mainly with drama, storytelling and building body and voice awareness", says Mia, "I believe writing classes should be a pleasant and stimulating experience, involve interaction and talk, and encourage people to move beyond what they think their limitations are." - June Edwards

Cloverhill Literacy Day

Literacy Day

One of Dublin’s most favourite authors, Neville Thompson, who penned the modern Dublin classics Jackie Loves Johnser, OK? and Have Ye No Home To Go To?, along with his latest novel, Mama's Boys, visited Cloverhill Education Unit in February 2013 for Literacy Day and spoke to the students about the opportunities of prison education and encouraged students to spend more time reading and writing.
Literacy activities took place in each classroom for the first hour in the morning to highlight the importance of integrating literacy into every subject. Students, teachers and officers all gathered to participate in Drop Everything and Read (DEAR), an initiative where everyone stops what they are doing and reads for ten minutes. - Joan O'Shea

Crosses and Crescents

IPS logo

In October 2012, the Director General of the Irish Prison Service, Mr Micheal Donnelan, opened an international event hosted at Wheatfield Prison. Special guests were representatives of the Red Cross/Red Crescent Societies of 37 countries in Europe as well as some from the Far East. There was also representation from the headquarters of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in Geneva. The delegates were in Ireland to attend the Red Cross/Red Crescent First Aid Education in Europe Network (FAEEN) meeting which was being hosted in Ireland from 11th - 13th October.

Red cross logo

The Irish Red Cross was represented by its Secretary General, Mr Donal Forde, and the CDETB by its CEO, Ms Jacinta Stewart. There were also representatives of Governors, chiefs, nurses and teachers from many of the prisons undertaking the programme. The purpose of this event was to show case Ireland’s Community Based Health & First Aid in Action programme to these visiting countries who are now interested in how this award winning programme could work in prisons in their own countries.

Red cross display

Inmate volunteers from Mountjoy, the Training Unit, Dochas Centre, Cloverhill, Shelton Abbey and Wheatfield presented examples of first aid skills and a wide range of health projects that they are undertaking as Irish Red Cross volunteers in their own prisons. At the end of the presentations delegates were invited to visit the individual display stands of each prison and talk to the volunteers, their Governors, chiefs, nurses and teachers. Opening the event, Michael Donnelan said that he recognised the importance of the project and acknowledged the important changes that it had already brought about in prison health. “The Irish Prison Service”, he said “is going through a period of change where its strategic goals and aims will make a dramatic change to how custodial care is administered in Ireland and the programme fits very well into these with its community and voluntary service focus.”
He added that “The partnership between the Irish Prison Service, the Irish Red Cross and the City of Dublin Education and Training Board began in June 2009 when the pilot Community Based Health and First Aid in Action approach to prison community health was introduced here at Wheatfield Prison. Since then it has been rolled out to five other prisons between 2010 and 2012 and is set to start in Cork, Portlaoise, St Patricks and Castlerea Prisons in 2013. It is hoped that all fourteen prisons in Ireland will be operating the Programme by the end of 2014”.
The event was a resounding success and the volunteers from all prisons were well received by the international delegates who were amazed by the skills, knowledge and dedicated work being undertaken by them in the name of the Red Cross in Ireland.

Over the past three years, Ireland’s prison-based Community Based Health and First Aid (CBHFA) – also known as the Red Cross project prison programme - has received international acclaim. In 2011, this prison health initiative won the World Health Organisation Award for Best Practice in Prison Health and in 2012 won the Bionmis Irish Healthcare Innovation Award for Best Health Promotion Project and also won an Irish Medical Times Commendation Award for Best Public Health Initiative at the Irish Healthcare Awards - Maeve Donnelly

Afternoon tea party

To mark 'International day for the Elderly' in October, 2012, Irish Red Cross volunteers in Mountjoy prison hosted an afternoon tea party for a group of elderly persons from Nethercross Day Care Centre. This was attended by over twenty people from the centre and each of the guests was presented with a handmade crochet hat and scarf made by volunteers in the fabric workshop.
The guests enjoyed delicious cream cakes, jam buns, luxurious deserts a selection of sandwiches served with tea and coffee and were entertained with music and singing.The group was presented with a hat and scarf and doll houses made in the carpentry workshop that could be raffled by the centre to raise funds which could go towards an event or occasion of their choice.
As part of their awareness campaign, some of the Irish Red Cross volunteers in Mountjoy produce a montly newsletter. An Irish Red Cross graduation was held in Mountjoy for nineteen volunteers in March, 2013. It was attended by President Michael D Higgins. - Josephine Rice

Training Unit Careers Fair

Career Fair

A major highlight in the Training Unit in 2012 was the hosting of the first Careers Fair. The event was organised by Maria Ward, Guidance Counsellor. There were over thirty exhibitors including CDETB Further Education Colleges, CDETB Literacy schemes, DITs, Universities, Pathways, PACE and a variety of other agencies supporting prisoners after their release. Apart from providing information on a broad range of course choices open to prospective students, the day provided them with the opportunity to meet representatives of the different institutions exhibiting in a face to face ‘chat’ situation. It was a huge success with many students being inspired to pursue education or training courses after their release.
Following the event, a number of prisoners were given day releases to attended interviews for college places for the academic year 2012-2013. - Margaret Joyce

ITEC Diploma Award Cermony

ITEC graduation

In February, 2013, students in the Education Unit, Mountjoy were awarded their ITEC diplomas in Gym instruction. This was the second year that this award ceremony. The diplomas were presented by the ITEC examiner, Niall Raferty

ITEC logo

The ITEC Diploma in Gym instruction is the most widely recognised qualification for fitness instructors in Ireland and the UK. The International Therapy Examination Council (ITEC) is based in London and is the largest international examination board offering a variety of vocational qualifications in sports and beauty therapy. ITEC qualifications are recognised nationally and internationally. The main aim of the course is to enable students to provide clients with an appropriate gym workout for their needs to improve overall fitness including strength, flexibility and cardio-respiratory function. The course includes a combination of theory and practical components including anatomy and physiology, exercise techniques, exercise programming, benefits of exercise, fitness testing, business awareness, professionalism and nutrition. The current graduates in Mountjoy are now studying an 'add on course' in teaching children Physical Fitness and Exercise. - Josephine Rice

School Promotion Video

Promo Video

The school promo video project began in July 2012 and was finished in October. It profiles the educational journey of four Training Unit students, covering a wide range of abilities and interests from Level 2 FETAC to Open University. The interviewees were asked a series of questions relating to their experience of and engagement with educational opportunities in the prison school and whether or not they intended to pursue education on their release. The purpose of the video is to promote education within the Training Unit and encourage newcomers to the Unit to attend the school. It is planned to screen the promo prior to showing in-house DVDs on the prison TV network system. - Bernie Masterson

Mountjoy School Choir

The school choir was formed in October 2012. The idea behind the choir was to have a more modern feel using popular songs with choir members creating their own upbeat arrangements. Rehearsals took place every Thursday and the choir got to perform for the first time in December at the Christmas concert with songs that included House of the Rising Sun, Ronald Orzabal Mad World, Bob Dylan Make You Feel My Love, and The Pogues Fairytale of New York. The choir was accompanied by music students and teachers and the performance was very well received. New choir members are recruited on an ongoing basis and they are currently working towards performing at future events. - Lisa Hutchings


Except in the case of group projects, all works shown here are done so with the understanding that they are owned solely by the prisoner accredited and that the accredited prisoners have consented to them being used on this site. The images, poems and music samples are also copyrighted to this site and cannot be reproduced elsewhere without permission from the site owners, who in turn must get permission from the relevant accredited prisoner. Ownership of any work featured on the site remains that of the accredited prisoner.