02.04.2019 TEDxMountjoyPrison event to focus on supports needed for re-integration of ex-offenders

TEDxMountjoyPrison event on supports needed for re-integration of ex-offenders

A TEDx event in Mountjoy Prison held in March 2019 focused on the cross-cutting supports needed to ensure ex-offenders re-integrate successfully into society. SOLAS, the Further Education and Training Authority, organised the event in partnership with the Irish Prison Service.

TEDxMountjoyPrison heard from a range of speakers, including Dublin footballer Philly McMahon; publisher and media personality Norah Casey; and Nikki Gallagher, Director of Communications and Secretariat at SOLAS. People with first-hand experience of the prison service also featured on the line-up, including an ex-offender, a probation officer, and the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Eddie Mullins.

Commenting at the event, Nikki Gallagher from SOLAS said: “SOLAS helps to funds prison education services through the Education and Training Boards across Ireland. There is high take-up of educational opportunities amongst prison populations but we are conscious that education alone cannot ensure ex-offenders successfully re-integrate into society.

“At #TEDxMountjoyPrison, we asked people to reconsider what they think they know and understand about the prison system and how it supports the transition back to society. We also asked people to think about how we can create a fairer society, where each and every one of us can avail of equal opportunities – and what responsibility policymakers, educators and employers have in this space.

“SOLAS’s active inclusion mandate means we have an obligation to look at not only education and training, but also the wider obstacles ex-offenders face on release from prison. We need to consistently highlight how a range of supports are needed for successful re-integration – including education and training, but also supports around housing, employment, mental health, and family relationships.”

Prison Education

· In 2018, there were over 8,500 beneficiaries of SOLAS-funded educational supports across the seven prisons in Dublin, of which 2,367 achieved accredited outcomes.

· There are approximately 700 courses provided, with over 60 per cent of those offering formal accreditation.

· The courses include literacy supports, arts and crafts, business administration, and sports and leisure, amongst other topics. The most in-demand prison education courses relate to transversal skills, such as core personal and general learning skills.

· Course durations vary from short taster courses, lasting from one to four weeks, to longer courses, lasting up to one year.

Input from Governor of Mountjoy

Also speaking at the TEDx event was the Governor of Mountjoy Prison, Eddie Mullins, who said: “We are delighted to have collaborated with SOLAS on this project. This is the first time a TEDx event has taken place in an Irish prison. The theme was ‘Beyond Walls – from Custody to Community’; and our speakers – including myself – shared ideas on what supports are needed by ex-offenders, and how we can change public mindsets about prison.

“Having worked within the Irish Prison Service for nearly 30 years, I have seen first-hand how education and training can transform offenders’ lives. But I have also seen how ex-offenders can struggle to find employment and housing – and to rebuild their personal relationships – on release from prison.

“At this evening’s event, I am hoping we hear diverse and creative ideas on what additional supports and measures can be put in place to help former prisoners reintegrate into society.”