New Enterprise Initiatives in Irish Prison Education

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Late 2017 there were pilot enterprise education courses run in Midlands & Portlaoise Prisons, Portlaoise, Ireland. These courses were run in partnership with Local Enterprise Office in Laois & the Laois and Offaly Education and Training Board and with the permission of the Irish prison Service. The courses were delivered to prisoners in the last phase of their sentence.

This was the first ever Start Your Own Business programme delivered within the Midlands & Portlaoise Prisons. The evaluation of this course and the feedback from the participants was extremely positive. It offered the students a new understanding of entrepreneurship and opened the prospect of self-employment and also highlighted the availability of the various enterprise supports that would be available to them after their release.

It was a great experience for the students to avail of a training course that was identical in its delivery to any Start Your Own Business course delivered to members of the public. In the Council of Europe 17 Recommendations for Prison Education, #2 states that;

Education for prisoners should be like the education provided for similar age-groups in the outside world, and the range of learning opportunities for prisoners should be as wide as possible.

It was great that with the support & co-operation of local agencies we were able to deliver on this recommendation in a very real way for our students.

Seamus Doran, Business Advisor with Local Enterprise Office Laois said “We were very happy to partner with the Laois & Offaly Education & Training Board and the Irish Prison Service to deliver these courses. The willingness of all bodies to work together for a common purpose really added to the successful outcome of the Start Your Own Business courses. It was a very positive experience to take some of our regular enterprise services and deliver them in these unique environments. These courses have opened up realistic opportunities for self-employment for the participants and we have now developed a model of enterprise training which could be adopted in any prison in other European countries.”

Melanie Guing M.B.A. & Patricia Frayne F.C.A. of Midland Business Training

Training was provided by Melanie Guing M.B.A. and Patricia Frayne F.C.A. of Midland Business Training on behalf of Local Enterprise Office Laois. “We were delighted to be associated with this innovative training initiative by LEO Laois” said Ms Guing, “there was great interest in it and superb feedback from participants. We are confident that participants are now well equipped to follow self-employment route on their release. Rollout of these programmes nationally and indeed internationally would be of huge benefit both to those taking part and to help reduce the risk of recidivism after release.”

Local Enterprise Office Laois have been hugely proactive in the past number of years in engaging with disadvantaged groups and promoting entrepreneurship amongst these groups. Their initiatives in opening the possibility of self-employment to older people, ex-prisoners and asylum seekers. They have developed some of the first programmes of their types in Ireland. The success of this programme was built on developing a partnership of stakeholders, both from the Local Enterprise Office and within the prison education system. Everyone worked together in partnership in the common interest of supporting the course participants. The learning from this programme in the prison could be replicated and delivered in all other prisons in Ireland or in prisons in Europe.

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