January 2000 was the first time I entered a real prison setting. I will never forget the first 2 days. At the time, the school in the Prison was located through B Wing. ‘B’ was one of the oldest wings in the Prison at the time, a place where the lads would slop out after dinner as we returned to work! The first 2 days I sheepishly entered the Prison hiding behind the other teachers as we walked through the Prison endeavouring not to look shocked at the scenes around me. In my head I thought ‘let me go home and get out of here’. By the third day I was able to stand on my own two feet walking through, I don’t know what changed but it began to feel ok. I was becoming institutionalised!!
Limerick Prison around the year 2000 would have made a fantastic Prison Museum. It had wings from so many different centuries and still today 2019 it has one wing – the ‘A’ wing where the Prisoners still slop out.
The day to day routine in the Prison is constant, they wake if they wish to have breakfast @ 8.30am. School/visits or work (if you have a job) till lunchtime. Lunch is served at 12 midday or just after. School/work or visits for the afternoon and then the final meal of the day is served at 4.30pm! Lock up for the night is at 7.30pm and you survive with whatever supplies you have gathered from the tuck shop. 7.30pm lock up is especially early in the summertime when it is bright until 11pm. The cells tend to be too hot or too cold, very challenging to regulate the temperature.
My job as a Physical Education Teacher in the Prison is to work with the Prisoners on a one to one or in small groups. A big part of the programme is encouraging the Prisoners to workout in the cell where they have ample time! Our PE staff run a number of competitions during the term for the Prisoners love the competitive nature of the competitions. The school presents Prisoners with the opportunity to progress academically and a number make huge progress during their time inside.
We have had a guy run a marathon in the Prison, running in circles around the ‘D’ yard raising money for charity. It was a fantastic achievement. Some of the males and females reach very high fitness levels and live for their sessions in the Fitness suite.