- Progress in the Penal System (PIPS) - https://pips.iprt.ie -

18: Life skills

Standard 18:

Prisoners are encouraged and facilitated to develop and maintain life skills and assume personal responsibility while in prison.


Developing life skills in prison is an important aspect of prisoner rehabilitation. Research has found that the development of life skills such as recognition, interpretation, reflection, response and planning help prisoners in everyday life and is essential to rehabilitation. [454]

Current context:

The Irish Prison Service has recommended expanding Independent Living Skills Units (ILSU) across the prison estate. [455] The purpose of ILSUs is to replicate community living in so far as possible within a closed prison regime. [456] ILSUs allow prisoners to develop skills such as preparing and cooking their own meals.

Indicators for Standard:

Indicators for Standard 18

Indicator S18.1: The number of Independent Living Skills Units in the closed prison estate: There is an Independent Living Skills Unit in Wheatfield Prison and one in Midlands Prison. An ILSU is currently being developed in Mountjoy Prison, which is due to open later this year. [457]

Indicator S18.2: The number of prisoners across the closed prison estate who have access to communal dining: A total of 509 prisoners currently have access to communal dining: Loughan House (140); The Grove, Castlerea (55); Shelton Abbey (115); Independent Living Skills Unit, Midlands (38); Wheatfield (31) and Dóchas Centre (130). [458]

Progressive Practice:

Units of Therapy and Education, Villabona, Spain

Units of Therapy and Education (UTE) have been successful in reducing re-offending in Spain. Prison officers and prisoners work together with therapeutic professionals to construct a goal-oriented environment. [459] The Committee on Justice and Equality (2018) recommended this approach stating: “The Villabona project in Spain may be instructive in this regard, using an alternative model that immerses prisoners in an educational environment that teaches skills and, importantly, values such as empathy and kindness. ”[460]

Actions required:

Action 18.1: The Irish Prison Service should increase the number of Independent Living Skills Units across the estate, increase the number of prisoners having access to communal dining, and advance technological developments that support learning, access to services and reintegration.