117 prisoners are sitting Leaving Cert exams, and 161 are taking Junior Certificate subjects in the exams which start today. Approximately 600 others are estimated to be taking FETAC courses.
The number that are sitting Leaving Cert exams represents an increase of almost 50% on last year, which is a terrific achievement primarily by the prisoners themselves, but also by the teachers and the prison education units, which are a partnership between the IPS, vocational education committees (VECs) and the Department of Education and Science.
Education plays a vital role in the rehabilitative function of prison. Educational disadvantage can lead to limited life-choices, in particular employment, which in turn becomes a pre-disposing factor in criminal activities.
The successful reintegration of prisoners into an increasingly educated work force, therefore, depends on sufficient resources being made available in the area of training and education - resources which must be increased as the prison numbers continue to soar.