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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 19 March, 2018

'Prison is all about games. You have to play them right and you'll get out the other side' was given exclusive access to Mountjoy Prison.


“NOBODY WANTS TO be in prison. Well, very few people anyway. For a lot of the guys, they want to be away from the prison gym. They want to feel safe and that’s what we can offer by offering the computer courses. Prison is really about surviving but we give you the option to walk out with a few skills as well if you really want. It’s up to you.” was given exclusive access to Mountjoy Prison last Friday to examine the challenges and rewards which come with a career in the Irish Prison Service. But what we also got was an insight into the minds of the prisoners who call the north Dublin campus their home for as long as they are sentenced.

For many, the prison is a community – a place with its own intricate social strata. For others it’s a jungle, an unknown place they have to navigate carefully, avoiding the dangers and coming out relatively unscathed on the other side.

Mountjoy Prison offers a number of programmes for prisoners – most under the stewardship of prison officers. Many of the officers who joined the service were able to combine their interests into their jobs.

For example, Tom Crone is a prison officer who, amongst other things, teaches inmates how to use computers. Crone knows that inside the walls of a prison exists a different form of living – a place where survival is paramount. He knows his classes can sometimes be used by prisoners attempting to avoid the gyms and other activities fraught with potential danger. Not that he minds this.

Prison is all about games. You have to play them right and you’ll get out the other side. I know that a lot of the lads who come in here don’t actually want to learn about computers. They want to come in here and not have deal with the others in the gym and, you know what, that’s grand.

“But for me I try and get them interested in some part of what we’re doing. None of these lads are going to be bloody secretaries in offices, are they? I’ll give you an example, what I do is say ‘what are you into’ and it might be music, right? So, I’ll get up some mixing deck software and we can have a look at how to mix music. So, when they walk out the door, they might think that was beneficial to them and go and do something with it.”


For Crone and his colleagues in the Irish Prison Service (IPS), it can be interesting to see how different the prisoners act when they are in the classes and when they are back on the landings.

“It’s a bit mad, really. When the lads are in with the computers, they’re all ‘fancy a cup of tea, Mr Crone’ and all that. You get to know all the lads, their girlfriends’ names, their kids’ names and there’s a real subdued kind of atmosphere. But the second they walk back out onto the landings, they’re different. They ignore you or might say something. You take no offence to it at all, you can’t. I completely understand,” Crone explained.

Wall again0 One of the walls at Mountjoy Prison. Source: Nicky Ryan/

The prison officers we spoke to as part of’s Inside Mountjoy mini-series did not shy away from the testing aspects of their jobs but added that appropriate training and preparation can help diminish the threat to their personal safety.

Crone, when asked about the dangers of being a prison officer, said that he wouldn’t be doing the job if he honestly felt there was a danger to his wellbeing.

According to him:

I’ve been a taxi man, a bar man and a door man and I can honestly tell you, hand on heart, that this the safest of all four of the jobs. Prison is about getting by. Do what you have to do to get through and I completely understand that.

A recruitment drive is now taking place and the Irish Prison Service expects to appoint up to 250 recruit prison officers this year.

Recruit prison officer is the entry level to the service. It takes three years of service and the Higher Certificate in Custodial Care (HCCC) before the new Recruit Prison Officer is appointed as an established prison officer.

Trainees start on €28,000 per year but can earn upwards of €50,000 per year by securing promotion.

The jobs announcement and application form can be found on

Video by Nicky Ryan

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