The teaching staff in Prison Education Centres are employed by the relevant Vocational Education Committee (VEC) for the catchment area of each particular prison. For an overview of prison education in Ireland see the Prison Education Service website: www.pesireland.org.
The City of Dublin Vocational Education Committee (CDVEC) provides educational service in seven Dublin prisons. These are Arbour Hill, Cloverhill (remand prison), Dóchas Centre (women's prison), Mountjoy, St. Patrick's Institution, Training Unit and Wheatfield. Because of the size and complexity of this provision, the CDVEC's Educational Service to Prisons is overseen by the Organisor of Education.
Participation by offenders in education is voluntary. The curriculum is devised in response to the needs of the prisoners and a comprehensive range of courses is taught from Basic Education (including reading and writing skills) up to examination level. There is a strong emphasis on the creative arts such as Drama, Music, Art and Crafts, Creative Writing and Photography. While many of the courses offer students in prison the opportunity to pursue mainstream certification, there are also a broad variety of courses and support materials designed by teachers to meet the ever changing needs and interests of the student and the changing needs of society and the policies of the European Union, in particular, those on social inclusion. The nature and practice of education in prisons falls into the category of Adult Education with a special emphasis on Second Chance Education. The Education Centres also provide support and backup to prisoners engaged in distance education courses such as those of the Open University.
The aim of prison education is to help prisoners cope with their sentences and prepare them for release, and particularly to offer them the opportunity to discover and develop new potential within themselves. Such personal development has special urgency in a prison context since the great majority of those in prison have had limited education opportunities in the past.
The curriculum also seeks to reflect the needs and interests of the student when released into society. Pre-release courses are provided in close liaison with other disciplines in the prisons.The CDVEC's Pathways Project Centre aims to help, support and advise ex-prisoners on matters concerning employment, training and educational courses, accommodation and social welfare. Support is also given in terms of personal development, gaining confidence and heightening self-esteem as well as personal and vocational guidance counselling. The CDVEC also provides education at the PACE Training Workshop – a FAS funded Training Workshop for offenders on probation or parole.