Prison education, social capital and desistance: an exploration of prisoners' experiences in Ireland

Geraldine Cleere

    Research output: Types of ThesisDoctoral Thesis


    While the link between prison education and reduced rates of recidivism is well established in the criminological literature, less is known about the relationship between prison education and desistance. Similarly, in Ireland, little is known about the nature and potential benefits of prisoner education. This thesis presents the findings of a study designed to explore prisoners’ experiences of prison education and to investigate whether or not participation in prison education contributes to an offender’s ability to desist from crime. The study adopted a mixed-method approach which included the use of semi-structured interviews and surveys to explore prisoners’ experiences of prison education, reasons for participation and non-participation, the value and benefits prisoners’ attributed to education in prison and also to measure social capital levels among both prison education participants and non-participants. Prisoners from two prisons, one closed and one open, were recruited to participate in the study along with several ex-prisoners who agreed to participate. The thesis found that prisoners experienced many benefits from participating in prison education, including increased confidence, self-esteem, self-control and agency, along with various other cognitive changes. In addition, prisoners’ accounts provided evidence of strong connections between prison education and the formation of pro-social bonds which have been shown to play a role in the desistance process. Furthermore, the thesis also highlights the links between prison education and social capital, in that those who were participating in prison education had higher levels of social capital than those who were not. Furthermore, the thesis highlights the existence of a form of prison-based social capital, which appeared to be higher amongst prisoners who are not participating in prison education. The thesis therefore demonstrates the connections between prison education and the process of desistance and provides a unique insight into the ways in which prison education can promote desistance from crime amongst participants.
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Maguire, Niamh, Supervisor
    Publication statusSubmitted - 2013


    • Prison education


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