I wish to advise the Deputy that all prisoners are afforded the same access to meaningful work and study regardless of their sentence length. The Irish Prison Service provides a wide range of rehabilitative programmes in all prisons to those in custody, including those on sentences of ten years or over. Those programmes include education, work training, healthcare, psychological, psychiatric, counselling, welfare and chaplaincy services, all of which can offer purposeful activity to those in custody while serving their sentences and can encourage them to lead law abiding lives on release. On committal, all prisoners are interviewed by the Governor and are informed of the services available in the prison. At this point prisoners may be referred to services or they can self refer at a later date.
The aim of the Prison Education Service is to deliver a high quality, broad, flexible programme of education that helps people in custody cope with their sentence, achieve personal development, prepare for life after release and establish an appetite and capacity for life-long learning. Broad programmes of education are provided which generally follow an adult education approach. The Department of Education and Skills provides and funds an allocation of whole-time teacher equivalents to the prisons.
Programmes are adapted to take account of the diversity of the prisoner population and the complex nature of prison life, including segregation requirements and high levels of prisoner turnover. As well as seeking to draw on best practice in adult and further education in the community, there has been a lot of curriculum development over the years that is specific to prison circumstances, such as courses on addiction, health issues and offending behaviour.
The guiding principles which underpin the prisons' work and training service are to make available work, work-training and other purposeful activities to those in custody. Training activities are chosen to give as much variety as possible and also to give opportunities for those in prison to upskill and to acquire practical accredited skills which will help them secure employment on release. The provision of essential prison services such as catering, industrial cleaning and laundry services also form an important part of work training and skills development in all prisons.
The Irish Prison Service has also been expanding the number of accredited courses and opportunities available to prisoners in Work Training in recent years. Enhanced partnership arrangements with accrediting bodies such as City and Guilds and the Guild of Cleaners and Launderers and the centralising of co-ordination and quality assurance arrangements have enabled the Irish Prison Service to extend the number of available courses and activities with certification.