Mountjoy Prison – Maynooth University Partnership
In 2019, Maynooth University and Mountjoy Prison came together to establish Ireland’s first university-prison partnership. The MJMU Partnership aims to harness the transformative power of education to promote access to third level and support the reintegration of prisoners and former prisoners in society. We support engagement by the university within the space of the prison through a range of educational activities and through the creation of shared learning spaces for students in prison and students in university. Building on the great work which has already been taking place between the university and Mountjoy, the partnership provides strategic direction and support for a range of new initiatives, some of which are detailed below. Our work is guided by a Steering Group, whose membership is drawn from both organisations and includes current and former prisoners. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Public Service Innovation Fund 2019.
The MJMU Partership was launched on 19 April 2021. This online event was hosted by Eddie Mullins, Governor of Mountjoy Prison and Professor Aislinn O'Donnell, Head of the Department of Education at Maynooth University. Minister Simon Harris attended to provide his department's endorsement of the partnership.
A varied and interesting format showcased a range of meaningful contributations by a range of experts, panellists and prison-experienced speakers, and was documented by a graphic harvester throughout.
This launch event was hugely impactful for attendees who provided some of the aspects that inspired them in their feedback.
The Story Exchange
The Story Exchange Project is a collaborative initiative between Mountjoy Prison Progression Unit, Maynooth University Access Programme and Gaisce – The President’s Award. The project ran from September 2019-March 2020 and brought together young people incarcerated in the Mountjoy Prison Progression Unit and MU students over 13 weeks. The Story Exchange works by randomly partnering people from the group and getting them to tell each other a story from their lives. When everyone comes together again as a group, they re-tell their partner’s story in the first person. The MU students taking part in the project are part of the MAP Ambassador Programme, a volunteering student-led initiative which promotes access to third level for people with fewer opportunities. Participants worked with Emer NcNally, a data harvester, to explain their experience of the project and the power of story exchange to foster connection, solidarity and self-belief:
The Story Exchange uses the Gaisce Award framework, which means that participants received a Gaisce award for their contribution to the project. The project was documented and evaluated by Sarah Meaney (Research Manager, College Connect Project & Department of Adult and Community Education). You can read the full report: Evaluating the Story Exchange Project and you can also read the summary report Introduction to the Story Exchange .
Unlocking Potential is a new project led by Maynooth University Access Programme and the MU Department of Law in collaboration with Mi:Lab – the MU Innovation Lab, the Irish Prison Service, Irish Probation Service, the Pathways Centre for Prisoners and Former Prisoners and the Irish Penal Reform Trust. Unlocking Potential is a research policy project which aims to develop a ‘fair admissions toolkit’ to guide the redevelopment of university convictions policies and foster a common approach to the admission of people with convictions across the higher education sector. We gratefully acknowledge the support of the Public Service Innovation Fund 2020.
Mountjoy Lecture Series
Those entering higher education from under-represented backgrounds, including people with convictions, can sometimes find themselves funnelled into particular disciplines and careers - sociology, social work, addiction services. The MJMU Partnership committed to running a series of lectures in Mountjoy to open up a broader range of academic experiences to inmates. The lecture series launched in February 2020 with the initial lecture being delivered by Dr. Conor Murphy (Geography Department) on climate change. The lecture, held in the Progression Unit, was attended by over 40 inmates and was very well received. The first of six planned lectures, unfortunately the series had to be postponed as a result of Covid-19 restrictions. Plans are underway to run the lecture series again in a manner which adheres to Covid guidelines.