Ireland: what we've learned from teaching in prison

Opinion: prison education has a long tradition in Ireland north and south and is of immense value to imprisoned persons.

For the past number of years, we have taught Criminology in Cork Prison and Hydebank Wood Secure College in Belfast with our colleagues. As critical criminologists, we don’t focus on teaching what most people imagine Criminology to be (CSI type crime scene analysis or serial killers).

Instead, our classrooms widen the lens on understanding how crime can be interpreted in the context of social inequalities and intersecting structural harms – including poverty, racism, ablism and gender inequalities. This also includes thinking about what can stop people from coming into contact with criminal justice, and asking if prisons really make communities safer.

By Katharina Swirak, UCC and Gillian McNaull, Queen’s University Belfast