Prisons should return to a normal and full education schedule from next week, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) has said.
Responding to an announcement from the Teachers’ Union of Ireland that in-person education in prisons is to recommence next week, the campaigning body says that restoring access to learning will bring a sense of hope to prisoners engaged in schooling.
IPRT executive director Fíona Ní Chinnéide said: “Many of these students will have faced barriers in accessing traditional education, and are now grasping the opportunity for educational development in prison.
“The blanket closure of all prison schools and face-to-face teaching has been a particularly significant disruption to their learning.
“Time and time again, research has shown that people who participate in education and training programmes are less likely to return to prison.
“It is crucial that people in prison continue to be provided with the opportunity to access in-person education, particularly in circumstances where there are very few confirmed COVID-19 cases in prison,” she said.
Remote learning can be no substitute for the individualised guidance provided by in-person teaching, the IPRT has said, pointing out that it remains concerned that prison schools are not opening at the same time as schools in the community.
Efforts must be made to restore the prison education schedule to its full, pre-COVID, timetable, Ní Chinnéide said.
IPRT has also called for increased out-of-cell time and access to exercise, as well as the resumption of physical family visits.