Reforming through mindset

Mountjoy Prison

Mountjoy Prison is a medium security prison for adult males. It is the main committal prison for Dublin city and county, with an operational capacity of 755.


Mountjoy Prison


Public Sector


In 2015, an increase in violent gangland feuding resulted in a surge in the numbers of prisoners seeking protection and necessitated further segregation to separate feuding factions and the implementation of additional operational resources. However, austerity measures further challenged staffing numbers, with many prison officers having retired.

Protection prisoners are generally isolated from the main prison population who enjoy a full daily regime and all of the services offered within the prison. Consequently, for security and health and safety reasons, Protection prisoners enjoy a restricted regime with limited access to the full suite of educational programmes at the school and training programmes in the workshops. With evidence indicating that access to such benefits was key to prisoner reform, there was a desire to find a way to encourage more engagement with services offered within the prison that would allow prisoners to access enhanced benefits.


To date, 318 male prisoners from all areas of the prison have been through the STEPS to Excellence® programme. These prisoners were selected strategically by Integrated Sentence Management officers to ensure that the groups would be balanced between those engaged with services and those who were not, in an effort to encourage best outcomes for all involved.


“The outcomes from this project have been wide-reaching, with improvements noted to prison discipline, relationships and engagement. STEPS to Excellence® has significantly enhanced the services and support offered here at Mountjoy and is now embedded as a programme that will continue to be offered to prisoners.”

Brian Murphy, Campus Governor, Mountjoy Prison, Dublin

Prisoners on protection: An increase in the number of prisoners requesting to be transferred to the main wings of the prison and subsequently engaging in education, training or work.

Attitude Change: An increase in the prisoners’ openness to engage with services, including education, training and work, with many attending school classes and working towards qualifications.

Health: An increase in prisoners becoming aware and taking more control over their health and well-being, which resulted in more prisoners using the gym and physical benefits are noted by prison staff.

Relationships: Improved relationships between staff and prisoners and with other prisoners on the landings, with prisoners’ family relationships also reported to have improved as a result of using tools learned in STEPS to Excellence®.

Progression: In 2017 a ‘Progression Unit’ was set up to offer privileges and greater responsibilities to well-behaved prisoners, the majority having modified their behaviour after completing STEPS to Excellence®.